This week’s deadline for NBA trades looked, just a few weeks ago, like it was going to be a quiet, uneventful Thursday.
Back then, teams were packed together in the standings. It wasn’t easy to determine which clubs would be buyers and which would be sellers. It wasn’t clear if any real stars would be made available.
Then Anthony Davis asked to be traded from the New Orleans Pelicans last week.
That request has sparked an unexpected flurry of drama and intrigue — capped by Wednesday night’s news that the Washington Wizards had dealt forward Otto Porter and his max contract to Chicago.
As for Davis, there’s no guarantee the 25-year-old superstar will be moved, but he’s by far the biggest name on the market — an instant game-changer who could transform any number of teams into legit contenders. No wonder NBA fans are consistently refreshing their Twitter feeds in search of updates.
He’s not the only big name still on the market. The Memphis Grizzlies are looking to deal their two best players, guard Mike Conley and center Marc Gasol, after falling to the near-bottom of the Western Conference. Both could be difference-makers for teams looking to make a postseason push. The Utah Jazz and the Detroit Pistons have been rumored front-runners for Conley, while the Charlotte Hornets appear on the verge of acquiring Gasol.
There are other fascinating possibilities for teams looking to add pieces for a playoff run: the Clippers’ Patrick Beverley, Atlanta’s Jeremy Lin, New York’s Wesley Matthews, Cleveland’s Alec Burks and Orlando’s Terrence Ross have all been floated in recent rumors.
The NBA in recent years has thrived on player movement. There’s a reason LeBron James jokingly asked where NBA insiders like Adrian Wojnarowski and Chris Haynes were during a lackluster Super Bowl. Keeping track of potential comings and goings in the NBA is almost always more exciting than a punting exhibition — even if the punters are kicking for the NFL title.
Besides the Porter trade, there have already been a couple of eye-opening deals ahead of the deadline.
The New York Knicks traded promising but injured star Kristaps Porzingis and two bloated contracts last week to the Dallas Mavericks, in order to free up salary cap space. The move was polarizing: Why would the Knicks give up on Porzingis, just 23, so soon? But insiders soon connected the dots and speculated Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Boston’s Kyrie Irving could be heading to The Big Apple once they hit free agency this summer.
On Wednesday, the Philadelphia 76ers sent three players and four drafts picks to the Los Angeles Clippers for Tobias Harris and two other players — a deal that gives the 76ers a “Big 4” now that Harris will join Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. On the surface, it was a lot to give up, but the 76ers are hoping Harris is the final piece to get them to the finals.
But none of these moves are as fascinating on what could happen to Davis.
In the past week, Davis’ story has played out like a soap opera. The Pelicans have removed Davis from their pre-game video package used to hype fans. They are also holding him out until the deadline passes to prevent injury.
The Los Angeles Lakers, who would like to add Davis to pair him with LeBron James, have reportedly offered their entire young core and two first-round picks, but pulled out of negotiations with the Pelicans after they failed to make a counteroffer. Skeptics viewed the move as a stunt.
Davis hasn’t outright said he wants to be traded to the Lakers, but he shares the same agent as James and the Lakers were part of four teams (the Clippers, the Bucks and the Knicks) that he reportedly would be willing to sign an extension with this summer.
The timing of the request also benefited Los Angeles — given that the Boston Celtics, who are very much interested in Davis and have many tradeable assets, can’t trade for the star until the summer because of a league technicality, unless they include Irving.
New Orleans could very well hold onto Davis until the summer to try to leverage Boston and the Lakers against each other. But Boston will have to walk a tightrope while trying to trade for Davis and re-sign Irving, who’s no longer seen as a sure thing to come back.
It may seem complex, but the “will-they-or-won’t-they” nature of each rumor has fans glued to their phones.
And considering teams have until 3 p.m. Thursday to negotiate deals, this could come down to the wire.
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