As the final hours of Thursday’s NBA trade deadline ticks away, the New York Knicks have suddenly found themselves in contention for Anthony Davis despite no reported efforts actually being made to acquire him.
Marc Stein of the New York Times reported on Wednesday that the Knicks “are on equal footing,” with the Los Angeles Lakers as teams Davis would be willing to sign a long-term deal with.
The 25-year-old New Orleans Pelicans center, who asked for a trade last week, will become a free agent in 2020, and his desire to re-sign with any potential trade suitor drastically affects the impending return his current franchise might get for him.
This week, we’ve seen the Lakers, considered by many as the favorites to nab Davis, basically offer their entire team and a pair of first-round picks for Davis, only for the Pelicans to ask for an even greater price. It turns out they might have received and leaked the Lakers’ offers just to create unrest within the team.
Upon Davis’ initial trade request, the Lakers and Boston Celtics were believed to be the two serious contenders for the All-Star. Both have a crop of young players to sweeten the pot, but the Celtics’ ability to include the likes of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown or Terry Rozier in a deal had many believing Boston was in the strongest position to pull off a deal.
The problem was that Davis’ request came too early as the Celtics can’t trade for him until the summer, due to the Rose Rule, unless they trade star point guard Kyrie Irving first. Their chances further plummeted when Stein reported that he won’t sign an extension with the Celtics.
Regardless of who trades for Davis, there is still significant risk in spending too much for the possibility of him walking. While he has a list of teams he will re-sign with, Stein added that Davis wants to hit free agency in July of 2020.
While it looks unlikely that Davis will be dealt by Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline, the Knicks will have time to build a solid offer for the Pelicans should they choose to go after Davis.
With $71 million in cap space, the Knicks could opt to make a couple big splashes in free agency while not having to give up any of their future assets, whether that’s in the form of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, or Kemba Walker.
But if general manager Scott Perry and Knicks president Steve Mills decide to make Davis a priority, they might have the pieces to pull a blockbuster off.
Much of it will depend on what their first-round pick turns into. With the worst record in the league, the Knicks are in serious contention for the No. 1 overall pick, which could turn into Duke star Zion Williamson.
The Knicks could also surround the pick with young talents like Frank Ntilikina or Kevin Knox, both of whom are projects but still show some upside given they are just 20 and 19 years old respectively.
Mills and Perry and could also offer up the two first-round picks received from the Dallas Mavericks in the Kristaps Porzingis trade to ensure New Orleans will have ample opportunities to piece together a young core. But with Davis planning to go to free agency in 2020 despite his desire to join the Knicks, it would be understandable if New York’s management balked at the idea of giving up that much.