Anthony Davis has officially requested a trade from the forever struggling New Orleans Pelicans, and the Lakers and Celtics are teams expected to have immediate, immense interest in landing the best big man in the NBA.
But the New York Knicks are another team with a hat to throw in the Davis sweepstakes, and Yahoo!’s Chris Haynes reports that they’re preparing to make the Pelicans an offer.
The Knicks have valuable trade chips in Kristaps Porzingis, rookie Kevin Knox and potentially the No. 1 overall pick in 2019. With Boston, which has the best trade assets, unable to trade for Davis until the summer because Irving and Davis each have designated player rookie extensions, the Knicks may be the premier Eastern Conference threat to pull off the blockbuster.
If New York lands Davis, it could subsequently land Kevin Durant, and then could get Kemba Walker or even Kyrie Irving in the summer. New York basketball would be back, and better than ever.
These thoughts are fine, but there is a saying that applies here: the Knicks have too much dip on their chip. There are many things that need to happen before Knicks fans can dream about championships.
The Knicks need to create cap space
One way New York can do this is by putting together the right trade package for Davis. New York would need to include Tim Hardaway Jr. or Courtney Lee in the trade with the Pelicans. That could free up $12 million (in Lee’s case) or $18 million (in Hardaway’s) in cap space for next summer.
If the Pelicans don’t want Hardaway or Lee, the Knicks would need to deal one of those two wings to a team willing to trade cap space for assets. That means New York likely has to part ways with an additional future first-round pick. If they’re not dealing with the Pelicans, they likely need to do this before the Feb. 7 trade deadline.
Lee has an additional year on his contract after this one, while Hardaway has two more years.
They need to be blessed by the lottery gods
The NBA revamped its NBA Draft Lottery format to deter teams from tanking for better draft picks. Teams with the three worst records each have 14 percent odds at the No. 1 pick. In past seasons, the team with the worst record had a 25 percent shot at pick No. 1.
There is no guarantee the Knicks get the first-overall pick, and picks No. 4 (12.5 percent) and 5 (10 percent) have a good shot at leapfrogging into the top-3, too. The Knicks could finish with the second- or third-worst record in the league, then end up drafting fifth or sixth.
How valuable would that pick be for New Orleans, then?
Say those things happen. How much value can New York really offer?
Kristaps Porzingis was viewed as one of the best young players on the rise, but he tore his ACL last season and hasn’t touched the floor yet this year. There’s no telling how he’ll look when he gets back on the floor or how long it’ll take him to return to the near-All-Star form we saw a year-and-a-half ago.
A healthy Porzingis coined the term “unicorn,” so the league hadn’t seen a player like him. But the Pelicans have had a lengthy injury history and may not want to deal for a player with such a significant knee injury so early into his career. Porzingis is also eligible for a pay raise as an impending restricted free agent.
There’s also the question on how high New Orleans is on Kevin Knox, the versatile forward New York selected ninth-overall in 2018. He is more than just a shooter, with the ability to put the ball on the floor and has the tools to defend multiple positions. But he’s still only shown flashes to date.
In a perfect world, Porzingis, Knox, and a top-three pick in the 2019 draft looks good. But look at some competing offers:
- The Lakers can offer any mix of Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Ivica Zubac and any of the first-round draft picks they own between 2019 and 2026 (though they can’t deal two in a row due to the Stepien Rule).
- The Celtics negotiations begin with Jayson Tatum and can include Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, or any of their four 2019 first-round draft picks — their own, one via Sacramento in the Tatum/Markelle Fultz trade, one from Memphis due to a Jeff Green trade long ago, and one from the Clippers via ... a different Jeff Green trade long ago. Boston, though, can’t trade for Davis with Kyrie Irving’s current contract. They must wait until they sign him to a contract extension — or deal Irving in a trade for Davis.
- Plenty of other teams have assets they can offer even if Davis won’t commit to signing past 2020. The Raptors, for example, can trade Serge Ibaka or Jonas Valanciunas, along with Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Delon Wright, Fled Vanvleet, and/or Norman Powell
New York’s best offer matches up with Los Angeles’ and Boston’s — so long as Porzingis returns to his borderline All-Star form. That’s a big IF, but it’s one New Orleans might be willing to chance, especially if New York’s pick lands in the top-three.
But a lot has to happen before we even get there.