Let me just say this right off the bat: the Pacers are not getting Anthony Davis. There’s just no way.
Still, there’s a chance that Davis will end up in the East, a move that would most certainly shift the conference’s balance of power.
Following AD’s trade request to the Pelicans this past Monday, many were quick to predict a move to the Lakers. While the many “Davis to LA” connections would support that (same agent as LeBron, wants to play in a big city, wants to compete for rings), I think there’s still a good chance that Davis will land in the East, thus affecting the Pacers’ place in the standings.
Assuming New Orleans decides to pull the trigger and deal Davis before the Feb. 7 trade deadline, Eastern Conference powers like the Celtics, Raptors, and Bucks could be in the running for the big man. Even though the Knicks have been linked to the Davis trade talks, I just don’t see a path for New York to get him without offering a gold mine of draft picks (like Houston did with Jimmy Butler).
The buzz around Davis lately has reminded me of this past summer when Kawhi Leonard wanted out of San Antonio. The situation is a little different now, Leonard had a lot more help on the Spurs than Davis does on the Pelicans, he didn’t get along with his head coach and some teammates were slamming him in public. However, Kawhi was an MVP type of player, like Davis.
Let’s run through how a Davis trade to the East would affect the Pacers moving forward.
If I had to bet on one Eastern Conference team to land AD, it would be the Celtics. Danny Ainge is known for pulling off major trades (Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007, the blockbuster Nets trade in 2013, the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas deal in 2017), so there’s no reason to believe that he’ll sit this one out.
A trade to Boston is also the one most likely to move the Pacers around in the standings. The blue and gold are sitting in third place right now, and it was already probable that the Celtics would jump them, especially with Victor Oladipo done for the year. Boston would have to pay a high price for Davis, a deal that would have to include Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris and some draft picks, if not Gordon Hayward or Jayson Tatum. The longer New Orleans waits to deal Davis, the more likely it is that the Celtics will land him.
The Pacers were starting to gain on Toronto a little bit before Oladipo went down. That progress has since stalled, and a move by GM Masai Ujiri for Davis would all but kill that traction.
Ujiri would definitely have to include Pascal Siakam in the deal, a guy who’s a leading candidate for Most Improved Player this season, and the young IU product OG Anunoby. Don’t think for a second that Ujiri would hesitate–this is the same man who dealt DeMar DeRozan away last summer, the player who’d been the face of the franchise since about 2010.
The Raptors are basically tied for first place with Milwaukee in the East right now, but a move for Davis would catapult them ahead of the Bucks. It wouldn’t necessarily move the Pacers around that much, but it would make the gap between them and the top seeds that much bigger.
It’s hard to see a way in which the Bucks get AD without dealing Khris Middleton, but then again, it’s Anthony Davis. If you can get him, then go get him.
The package would be centered around Middleton and would probably include guys like Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez as well. Of course, some draft picks would be thrown in there, but it’s not like they were going to be in the lottery anyway.
Davis to the Bucks wouldn’t really shift the Pacers around in the conference standings, but would bump them down in the Central Division pecking order. Divisions aren’t as valuable as they used to be, but much like with Toronto, it would make the gap bigger, especially with the Greek Freak and AD on the court together.
No matter where Davis ends up, it’ll change the landscape of the NBA in some form or fashion. Some Western Conference teams are being slept on here (Mavericks, Clippers), but if you’re a Pacers fan, you’re not worried about the West. If the Brow ends up out here in the East, look out.