As reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski earlier this week, Anthony Davis has requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans.
There are lots of questions to be asked:
Why now? How did we get here? Who can offer the best package?
One team that has not been linked directly to Davis is the Toronto Raptors. That doesn't mean they aren't among the teams most impacted by the news emanating from New Orleans.
Here are several reasons why Monday's developments directly impact the Raptors.
Keeping Davis away from Boston
As speculation has simmered over the last few months regarding a potential Davis trade, many expected that we would not cross this bridge until the summer when the Pelicans could offer Davis a 5-year super-max contract extension worth $240 million.
If he rejected that extension, it would be a clear sign that it's time for New Orleans to move on and trade him rather than lose their franchise player for nothing when he can walk as a free agent in 2020.
The Boston Celtics have a war chest of assets that can likely trump any other team's package. In addition to high-ceiling young studs like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on team-friendly rookie contracts, they have a stockpile of future draft picks including the Clippers' 1st-round pick (top-14 protected), the Grizzlies' 1st-round pick (top-8 protected in 2019, top-6 protected in 2020 and unprotected in 2021) and whichever 2019 1st-round pick is higher between either the 76ers (top-1 protected) or Kings. They also own all of their own picks.
Long story short: it's really hard to compete against Boston when it comes to offering up an enticing package.
The problem for Boston? It can't trade for Davis now unless it gives up Kyrie Irving. Since teams can't trade for multiple players signed under the 'Rose Rule', the Celtics either have to wait until Irving is on a new deal (he becomes a free agent this summer) to trade for Davis or trade away Irving.
That's why the timing is so critical.
You might have heard: Kawhi Leonard is going to be a free agent this summer.
So what does an Anthony Davis trade request have to do with that?
Outside of the Celtics, the team most often linked to Anthony Davis speculation is the Los Angeles Lakers. It's no secret that they are desperate to find a second star to pair with LeBron James and given that Davis and James share an agent, well ... it's not difficult to connect the dots.
There is certainly no guarantee that Davis is traded to the Lakers. There's no guarantee that the Pelicans trade him at all.
But for the sake of this argument, let's say that this story ends with Davis suited up alongside James in purple and gold.
It's hard enough to win in a conference with the Golden State Warriors. Add a superstar tandem of LeBron James and Anthony Davis to the mix and suddenly the climb to the top of the Western Conference seems almost insurmountable.
Perhaps that could be a factor weighing on Kawhi Leonard's free agency decision.
Can the Raptors trade for Davis?
In theory, sure. There's certainly nothing preventing them from picking up the phone although I certainly wouldn't count on it.
If you tried to build a trade package for Davis, it would likely include some combination of Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby and Serge Ibaka plus multiple picks. Since the Raptors already owe the Spurs their 2019 1st-round pick, the earliest pick they could offer would be in 2021 as you cannot trade 1st-round picks in consecutive years.
Would that even get it done? The Pelicans are likely going to receive better trade packages.
Even if they don't, that's a massive gamble for Masai Ujiri as it's completely unloading the future for a shot at winning now and with no guarantee that either Leonard or Davis stays beyond their current contracts. Would a team of Leonard, Davis and Lowry guarantee a championship? With the Warriors still standing, probably not.
Lose both and you're looking at a 2020-21 roster that has exactly one guaranteed contract: Norman Powell. Since any Davis trade presumably included a 2021 1st-round pick, that's a tough pill to swallow moving forward if you're the Raptors. The Pelicans would surely balk at any protections on a pick.
Trading away DeMar DeRozan for potentially one year of Kawhi Leonard is one thing.
Trading away every other long-term asset for potentially one run with a Leonard-Davis pairing is an entirely other thing.
And yet even if the Raptors don't directly dance with a dangled Davis, the timing of it all means they could end up one of the biggest winners in this whole saga both now and into the future.
If a trade sooner rather than later keeps Davis out of the clutches of an Eastern Conference contender while also helping to retain Leonard, the Raptors will surely be dancing a happy jig.
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