Getting Anthony Davis to the Celtics Q&A
Updated: Jan 28, 2019
Anthony Davis gave an interview to Chris Haynes at Yahoo! Sports and he didn't exactly sounds thrilled with his team in New Orleans. While the Pelicans have played well with AD on the floor in the early season, they're 0-3 in games he misses and struggle whenever he sits.
“Life isn’t fair,” Davis told Yahoo Sports with a smirk. “We can’t control what happens in the league. I just go out there and play. It’s nothing I can do. It is what it is at this point. I just got to go out there and trust my teammates, which I do. Those guys are great players, good defenders, good role players. They do as much as possible to help me.”
Any time the 25 year old superstar sounds even a bit unsettled it throws trade hype into overdrive. As it seems like the Celtics have been positioning themselves for a run at him for a few years now, that hype generally centers around Boston.
Here are answers to some of the questions that get thrown my way whenever Davis trade speculation starts to heat up. None of this is particularly Earth shattering information; it's mainly just a way to consolidate multiple common questions into a single post.
1. Can the Celtics trade for Davis during this season?
Not without including Kyrie Irving in the trade, or having traded Kyrie beforehand.
Teams can have a maximum of two players currently on designated rookie extension contracts that went for the five season maximum salary. However, at least one of those players had to have signed the extension with the team; you can only have traded for one of those contracts at a time.
While neither Davis nor Kyrie ended up qualifying for the Rose Rule salary bump, both of their contracts were designated five season maxes. That being the case, they cannot have both Kyrie and AD together with their current contracts because both would have been acquired via trade.
2. When would he most likely become available, if ever?
This summer the Pelicans can offer Davis a new extension. Because he has made an All NBA Team in each of the past two season, that contract can be up to a five year deal (on top of the year he'd have remaining) starting at 35% of the salary cap with 8% annual raises. That projects out to a total of five years and $238M starting in 2020-21. If he were to play it out to free agency, other teams could offer him a maximum of 4 years and $176M. The Pelicans could offer him the same contract that they had offered as an extension.
That means that the Pelicans will know next summer if Davis is willing to take the most possible money to stay with them. If he doesn't, they will not be able to offer an even larger contract when he actually hits free agency. They would still have another season to convince him to stay, but if he declines that extension and tells them that his plan at that time is to leave via free agency, New Orleans would likely feel forced to trade him.
He is scheduled to become a free agent in the summer of 2020 by not picking up his final season player option.
3. If a team trades for him next summer, could they also extend his contract?
It's not financially viable to extend his contract as part of a trade. The extension would be limited to a 5% raise over his 2019-20 salary, which is far less than he could make by going to free agency. It's technically possible to do an extend-and-trade but improbable.
4. If a team trades for him, will they have any contract advantages in re-signing him?
No, not really. While technically they could offer him a five year deal with 8% raises as compared to everyone else offering four year deals with 5% raises, a player of Davis's quality would likely not want that fifth year, anyway.
The most likely deal might be a 2+1 contract setting him up to get the 35% max tier after his tenth season. He could also go the Paul George route and sign a 3+1 that adds some certainty for a player with an injury history and also sets up a future extension possibility that would pay more than starting with a five year deal, though less than signing the DVPE contract with New Orleans or taking the injury risk of a 2+1.
Regardless, a team holding AD's rights can offer him more than other teams, but probably not enough to make a big difference to a player who just walked away from the most possible money to exert player power.
5. If Boston can't trade for him now, when would they be able to?
Assuming that Irving will opt out of the final year of his deal, they could trade for Davis starting on July 1, 2019.
Conveniently, that lines up with when he would most likely become available in a way that the Celtics could acquire him.
If something catastrophic were to happen to Irving that resulted in him picking up his final year option, they could not trade for Davis until that contract came to an end or was traded away (or included in the trade for Davis).
6. How much salary would Boston have to send out to trade for Davis next summer?
At least $21,594,416.
7. Could Boston include a sign-and-trade player to get to that total?
A team over the luxury tax apron cannot acquire a player via sign-and-trade (unless that trade cuts salary and lands them back below the apron) but they can send S&T players out.
However, a player must agree to be a part of a S&T so you should always ask why that player would want to be included. For example, Terry Rozier will be a free agent. Would he rather go to New Orleans instead of to a different team with cap space, or stay in Boston via a re-signing or offer sheet match?
If the answer is that you'll overpay the player to get them to go along, you then have to ask if the receiving team would still want the player. By nature of it being an overpay, probably not without at least receiving an additional asset to offset the cost.
Additionally, Rozier would be subject to the Base Year Compensation rule which would mean that his "outgoing" salary value for the Celtics would be the greater of his current salary of 50% of the first season's salary on his new deal, but for the receiving team his entire new salary would count. That makes it harder to use him as a salary make-weight for contract matching purposes.
8. Could Boston include a pick from the 2019 draft?
Sort of. Technically not, but for all practical purposes yes.
They could make a pick for New Orleans and then include the rights to that player once July rolls around and Kyrie's contract has ended.
To include the rookie's salary in the trade they would have to agree to a trade with New Orleans but not make it official until one month after signing the rookie to their scale deal. There's plenty of time to do this, but any time a trade hangs in unofficial status is constitutes a big risk that someone could back out.
9. Could Boston include future picks?
Yes, the Celtics have all their own future picks and could have a pick from Memphis rolling into the future. The Memphis pick currently looks unlikely to convey this year.
10. If Davis is not traded and does not sign his extension, could Boston sign him via free agency in 2020?
It's extremely unlikely that Boston could clear enough cap space to sign him at that time. While it's almost always possible to clear money for a player of Davis's caliber, and particularly when you have the high-value contracts that Boston does, it simply leads to such a complicated situation that Davis probably wouldn't even consider Boston.
It also might gut the team to the point where he would not see it as a winning situation.
11. Could Davis be acquired via sign-and-trade in 2020?
A team must be under the luxury tax apron to acquire a player via sign-and-trade, and then stay under that line for the remainder of the season. It's difficult to see a way that Boston could add a salary of that size and yet stay under the hard cap.
12. If Davis signs his Designated Veteran Extension next summer, could New Orleans then trade him?
Not until the one year anniversary of the signing, which would be some time in the summer of 2020.
13. If Davis plays it out to free agency but then ultimately takes the Designated Veteran contract at that time, could New Orleans then trade him?
Not until the one year anniversary of the signing, which would be some time in the summer of 2021.
14. Would the Celtics include [Insert Player Name] in the trade?
My assumption is that Danny Ainge would trade literally anyone on the current roster to get Anthony Davis. There are obviously players who he would prefer not to include.
The conventional wisdom is that moving Kyrie to get him would be self-defeating, as a team without Kyrie would not be the level of contender that Davis would re-sign with.
The smart bet is still that Davis plays out his prime in New Orleans after signing the largest contract in NBA history next summer.
Still, it is the responsibility of every team to keep their options open for acquiring any player of his caliber. The Celtics would be one of a slew of teams making huge offers for him if the Pelicans start listening to offers.
As has been the case for quite a while, if Boston is hoping to acquire Davis their best case scenario would be that he declines the extension offer next summer and requests a trade. The next best scenario would be that he signs the Designated Veteran Extension next summer with some sort of "I'm giving you one more year but if we don't improve I'll do everything I can to force a trade starting in 2020, and I expect you to work with me on that because I'll be giving you a lot of leverage" handshake deal. If he plays it out to free agency, Boston is very likely out of the running for Davis for the foreseeable future.