When Anthony Davis and Rich Paul leaked their trade demand last week the NBA went into a frenzy. We knew this was probably coming, but now it was official; for the price of $50,000 Anthony Davis could officially proclaim that he wanted to become a member of the Lakers. When the NBA told him to expand his list so the public perception might seem like there was no collusion (very legal and very cool); Davis added the Bucks, Knicks, and Clippers to his list of preferred destinations. Three teams who probably don’t have the assets to land him (unless the Knicks land that Duke guy in the draft). The Lakers have reportedly made their godfather offer and as of this moment have subsequently pulled out of talks with rumors that the Pelicans wanted draft picks for the next hundred years. As we inch closer to the deadline it’s possible both teams will start negotiating in good faith, and if not Davis will sit on New Orleans bench until the summer.
As a seven footer who rebounds, blocks shots, switches onto wings on the perimeter, shoots three’s, can go coast to coast, and pass a bit; Davis represents the embodiment of the evolution of the NBA big man. An upgraded model of the Kevin Garnett prototype. He’s an advanced stats darling who also passes the eye test. Just a freak of an NBA player, a unicorn if you will.
There’s just been one tiny problem. Anthony Davis’ led teams haven’t been very successful. He’s been to the playoffs twice in his NBA career and advanced passed the first round just once. Which begs the question, if he is so great then why can’t he lead his team on a deep playoff run or even just routinely get them to the playoffs?
You can say that the Pelicans front office hasn’t done a good enough job putting talent around him, that he plays in the West, that he’s had mediocre coaching, or that he’s missed some games over the years; but a top five to ten player alone should be enough to at least consistently lead his team to the playoffs every year. That’s the case for every other top ten guy. The Rockets have been absolutely decimated with injuries but Harden said screw it and put the whole team on his back. The Lakers are a misfit of leftovers and so-so young talent and even though Lebron has missed some time they’re at least in the picture. Go down the line and you’ll see Kawhi, Giannis, Kyrie, Jokic, Dame, Russ all fighting for seeding. Even Sacramento is right there. Why hasn’t Davis been able to do the same as his peers?
Based on the Pelicans point differential New Orleans should be closer to the playoffs than to the bottom of the conference, but they have a big time issue holding them back. The Pel’s can’t get it done during winning time. They’re 9-22 in games decided in the clutch and they’re currently sporting the worst ORTG in the league in those minutes. To put that in perspective, they’ve been worse than the Bulls, Cavs, Knicks, and Suns; teams that are actively trying to lose. They have a NETRTG of -21.9 in the clutch. I mean holy shit. That is just a mind boggling stat.
Here's my hot take. Anthony Davis is a complimentary player. He’s a second banana, a number two, a side kick. The modern NBA is built for guards and wings, not for seven-foot number one options. Davis can look the part in spurts and put up monstrous counting stats, but he can’t make his teammates better like the other elite players do. You can’t spread the offense around the perimeter, put Davis at the top, and tell him to go.
His skill set actually makes him the perfect complement to Lebron. Davis basically becomes a super-charged version of Chris Bosh. Put Davis in the Bosh role and make him a super finisher that can focus on cleaning up on the defensive end and you can maximize the abundance of Davis’ talents. Lebron is getting older and he’ll need a supped up version of what he has won with in the past. It’s a role not for the faint of heart. Both Bosh and Love struggled with adjusting to their roles. It isn’t easy to cede touches and have to figure out ways to score in spots you may not be accustomed too. At the end of the day though, both Bosh and Love won championships and got paid.
Right now Davis is like Timberwolves era KG, a great player in a small market, who couldn’t get it done at stop one. To Davis, the Lakers represent a way to shed that label. Still though, the Pelicans have no reason to do the Lakers any favors. None of the rumored Ball, Ingram, Kuzma package guarantees the Pelicans a new franchise player. Who knows where the draft picks land. Perhaps nobody in the Boston package offers that either. And that is the dilemma that the Pelicans find themselves in. Do they let the trade deadline pass and hold out until the summer to see if the Celtics offer the mother lode of assets they’ve accumulated, or to see if the Knicks get the number one pick in the draft, or do they take the Lakers offer now with the impression that this may be as good as it gets?
No matter what team Davis ends up with I think one thing is clear, we’ll finally get an answer to the NBA’s big man question. In the pace and space shoot a million threes era, how much does a big man effect the game? Should teams be looking for the next Clint Capella or the next Anthony Davis? Is Anthony Davis worth tying up such a large percentage of the cap? Where and who Davis lands with is paramount. Davis in a way becomes the last great hope for the future of the big position.
Right now it’s anyone’s guess as to where Davis lands. But the team that eventually wins the Davis sweepstakes is going to have to gut their team. Whoever gets him better have a plan to put some star talent around him, because the Brow’s desire to land on the west coast tells me he’s tired of being Batman.