As with nearly every sport, the NBA has been graced with so many superstars, including this century.
As the clock struck three in New York City and the NBA trade deadline arrived, a number of shock trades stunned the basketball world.
Among them were a series of moves to shake up the Eastern Conference, with finals hopefuls the Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks all strengthening their line-ups with the likes of Marc Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and Jonathan Simmons.
However, despite the player-swap pandemonium occurring on the East Coast, all eyes were on the West – where Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans looked all but set to cut ties. The all-star forward had made clear his intention to leave, preferably to move to a large-market team such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics or New York Knicks.
But, in possibly the biggest shock of the deadline, the Pelicans declined a blockbuster offer from Lakers general manager Magic Johnson, one that included Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Rajon Rondo, Michael Beasley and two first round draft picks, leaving Davis stranded in New Orleans for the remainder of the 2018-19 campaign.
So what’s next for the Pelicans’ franchise big man?
New Orleans look set to ‘protect their asset’ by resting Davis for the remainder of the season. This would be an understandable decision as a serious injury to ‘AD’ would represent the worst case scenario for the club – severely limiting his value on the open market and reducing the return received when they do decide to trade him over the off-season break.
Concurrently, this would enable the Pelicans to develop their young core of forwards including Cheick Diallo, Jahlil Okafor and Julius Randle, aged 22, 23 and 24 respectively.
Unfortunately, this move opens a series of issues for New Orleans. Firstly, it must be determined to what extent Davis will remain involved with the club. Whether Davis is suited up for each game as a healthy scratch, or even permitted to attend on the sidelines, is yet to be seen, but the constant threat of involvement from the National Basketball Players Association will undoubtedly play its part in the outcome of this saga.
The biggest dilemma New Orleans may face could come in the form of training. On one hand, the Pelicans will want to keep AD off the court altogether – ensuring that their coaching resources are correctly allocated to the team’s younger stars and possibly hindering Davis’ development as he moves forward onto a new side.
On the other hand, the Pelicans sit six games back from the playoffs and would possess little to no chance of running their rivals down without their only all-star.
Right now, the playoffs look far from the equation for New Orleans, which presents fans and sponsors at the Smoothie King Center with minimal incentive to reinvest for the upcoming season.
Along with the proposition of plenty of empty seats for the remainder of this campaign, ownership may need to reduce the $5738 asking price for season tickets for the upcoming year without their city’s star man steering the ship on court.
Moving forward, the Celtics have moved into pole position to secure the signature of Davis due to their wealth of young and valuable assets. While they were excluded from much of the speculation surrounding Davis at the trade deadline due to the ‘Rose Rule’ – one of the more peculiar and unknown rules surrounding the NBA Salary Cap – the Celtics will re-enter the equation as Kyrie Irving’s contract expires this off season.
The other man who will indirectly impact the situation is Duke Small Forward Zion Williamson, the projected first pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. With Williamson expected to be a future franchise player, the first pick in the draft could be the asset the Pelicans need to replace Davis.
Regardless of where Anthony Davis ends up, this saga has been nothing short of disastrous for the New Orleans Pelicans and it appears as though it is far from reaching its conclusion.