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Last year at this time, the Cavaliers would have been front and center in the Anthony Davis trade talks.
LeBron James would have demanded it, even behind the scenes — just as James is doing now with the Los Angeles Lakers.
But that’s fantasyland. Reality is the Cavs will certainly call the New Orleans Pelicans, as Davis has requested a trade. The Pelicans intend to honor it. James and the Lakers are in the middle of it, along with the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks.
Davis said he only wants to win, which would basically leave the Cavs out of the running. (The Knicks, of course, are terrible, too. But the prospects of Davis teaming with free-agents-to-be Kevin Durant and Kemba Walker automatically makes them a legitimate player.)
Meanwhile, the Cavs don’t want to surrender their top draft pick in June for a guy who can leave in free agency in 2020. And the possibility of a top-three pick would likely be where all talks with the Pelicans would have to begin.
But just imagine if the Cavs were willing to risk it … and the Pelicans were willing to think about a trade centered on rookie point guard Collin Sexton, swingman Cedi Osman and center Tristan Thompson.
It’s enough to make Cavs fans dream of a frontcourt of Davis, Kevin Love and, say, Zion Williamson. They could bring back Tyronn Lue as the starting point guard and it wouldn’t matter. That frontcourt would put them into major contention in the East.
Unfortunately for the Cavs, the Pelicans would likely want Love and the draft pick. And maybe Osman. The Cavs would do it if Davis had three more years left on his deal. He is a super duper star, a young big man who is averaging a whopping 29.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots.
He is the type of proven franchise cornerstone every team hopes to land in the draft.
But franchise cornerstones aren’t one-year rentals, and unless the Cavs were to pull off the trade-deadline miracle of the century, Davis won’t be coming.
THREE’S A CHARM
Does that mean the Cavs shouldn’t bother calling the Pelicans? Not at all. They could actually serve a real purpose here and find some major assets along the way.
As a third team in a Davis trade, that’s how.
Aside from the draft pick, and possibly Love, nothing or no one about the Cavs is untouchable. They like Sexton. They like Osman. But if general manager Koby Altman can find a clear upgrade at any position, he will take it — provided the upgrade is a young player with loads of potential.
It also wouldn’t hurt if the Cavs could find someone to get fans buzzing again (Lonzo Ball, anyone?), though the team is willing to wait until summer for that.
Oh, and about summer. The Boston Celtics could have as many as four first-round draft picks. They can’t trade for Davis now, because of something known as the Rose Rule. (It would mean trading Kyrie Irving to the Pelicans if they made the move before the deadline, and that’s not something Boston is willing to do.)
Still, the Celtics intend to float some offers to the Pelicans now and give them something to think about. A framework to a deal can be established in February, announced in June and made official in July.
The Cavs would be less likely to be involved in that scenario. But you just never know.
The one thing the Cavs have that a lot of teams don’t is a willingness to move just about anyone to help facilitate a trade. In return, all they want is some assets — whether it be more young players or first-round picks, or both.
That is why the Cavs will indeed talk to the Pelicans. Granted, they won’t end up with Davis.
But the Cavs could still walk away with someone or something really cool, and they know it.