NEW YORK — Although the Los Angeles Lakers are still the heavy favorite to acquire Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, the New York Knicks are a more desirable long-term landing zone than the Boston Celtics, GetMoreSports.com learned Tuesday.
“If Boston gets him, it’ll be as a rental,” a source close to the Pelicans said, adding that the amount of disgruntled players on the Celtics roster is working against Danny Ainge.
With Davis having been fined $50,000 by the NBA for publicly requesting a trade, the league launching a tampering investigation and the Pelicans saying they will make a deal on their timetable and their alone, the league is in a collective wait-and-see zone.
But what was considered relatively unthinkable just a week ago is now a possibility.
The big question is whether the Knicks can put together an offer that trumps what the Lakers, according to a source close to LeBron’s camp, are prepared to surrender: Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Ivica Zubac, Jason Hart and Kyle Kuzma.
Any Knicks offer would presumably include Kristaps Porzingis, who is sitting out this season with recovering from a torn ACL. New York would also have to include multiple first-round draft picks — something they have steadfastly said they are unwilling to do.
But with Davis now available, that line in the sand can now be crossed.
Here is what one Knicks-Pelicans trade might look like:
Naturally, the pieces in the deal could be mixed and matched, and the value coming New Orleans’ way would be in the form of future No. 1 picks — presumably unprotected.
But remember that the Knicks are tanking for a reason — they will have a 14 percent chance of winning the draft lottery if they finish with one of the three worst records in the NBA, and when you start thinking about putting together a team that would include Davis, Zion Williamson and a max free agent to be determined … that there are the building blocks of a team that could compete for multiple championships in the decade ahead.
The Knicks currently have $57 million in committed salaries for next season, and adding Davis would put them at $73 million. Depending on what else would come aboard from a long-term salary commitment through a multi-player deal with New Orleans, they would conceivably have the room to add one max-level free agent.
Finding a taker for Courtney Lee (one year left at $12.7 million) and/or Tim Hardaway (two more years at $37 million) would free up additional room, but those players are drawing zero interest from other teams.
The Lakers still remain the most desirable destination for Davis, who would team with James, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson (and presumably Carmelo Anthony) to form a veteran core that could compete with any team in the West this season, and L.A. would still have cap space to work with in the summer of 2019 to add a third max player.
Here is what a Lakers-Pelicans trade might look like (not including the multiple future first-round picks that L.A. would have to include):
Of course, the possibility always exists that a team not on Davis’ wish list could make a superior offer, and that team would then be able to turn around at the trade deadline in 2020 (or over the summer) and move him to Los Angeles or New York.
Remember one thing as this all plays out: Anything is possible, and no team is likely to put its best offer forward until the morning of Feb. 7 — the NBA trade deadline.
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