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Where there’s smoke, there’s more than likely fire and when it comes to Anthony Davis and being traded, despite denials, the fuse has been lit.
According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, most NBA executives he spoke with at the G-League Showcase believe the New Orleans Pelicans star will wind up with either the Los Angeles Lakers or Boston Celtics next season.
Though the Pelicans have continued to say they have no intention to deal Davis, coach Alvin Gentry doing so again Friday night before New Orleans played Los Angeles at the Staples Center, they simply might not have a choice.
If the Pelicans offer Davis a supermax extension for five years and $239.5 million and he opts to not accept it, Davis would head toward unrestricted free agency in July 2020 if he declines his player option, which would leave New Orleans with the very real possibility of losing him and receiving nothing in return.
Davis changed his representation this offseason, signing with Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. Paul also represents LeBron James of the Lakers. This week, James gushed about what it would be like if the Lakers were to acquire Davis. James and Davis reportedly had postgame dinner Friday night in LA.
“I’m not worried about James tampering to the media about AD,” a Western Conference general manager told Pincus. “It’s that James and Paul are mafioso mob bosses of the NBA that’s the problem.”
The league executives Pincus spoke with did not believe Davis will be dealt before this season’s Feb. 7 trade deadline. However, they do expect it to go down before draft day, with the belief Davis will indeed decline the supermax extension should it be offered, which is almost a certainty.
“It’s going to be up to [Pelicans general manager] Dell [Demps] to decide where Davis plays next,” an Eastern Conference executive told Pincus. “Paul will get him traded, but it’s going to be up to Demps to get the best deal.”
Which would seem to benefit Boston in its pursuit of Davis. The Celtics could wind up with not only their own first-round pick next spring, but depending on protections, also those of the Clippers, the Grizzlies and the Kings. Boston cannot deal for Davis before Kyrie Irving opts out of his current deal, meaning the Celtics would need to come to an agreement with the Pelicans before the draft, meaning the deal could not go into effect until the league’s moratorium ends in early July.
Pincus speculates the Celtics could present Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown as cornerstones to an offer to Davis, while also mentioning Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris and Al Horford as potential pieces to a blockbuster as well.
He mentions youngsters Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball as the major pieces on which an offer from the Lakers would be built, though other players would be necessary to make salaries match.
As Pincus points out, Davis’ current pact includes a 15-percent trade kicker, which could work to the Lakers’ advantage. New Orleans would have to ante up another $5.4 million if it trades Davis during the season or $4.1 million if it were to happen in the summer. If Davis wants to play with James in LA, he could agree to waive the trade kicker only if he is sent to the Lakers.
The Lakers will be under the salary cap this summer, as Pincus points out, meaning they could restructure Davis’ deal. LA could pay him $32.7 million for next season then extend the pact through the 2021-22 season for $70.3 million over those two seasons.
If Davis hits free agency as a 10-year veteran in the summer of 2022, he would be eligible for a starting salary of $46 million, resulting in a total contract for $16 million less than the supermax offer the Pelicans can present this summer.