New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis made waves during All-Star Weekend when he revealed that the Boston Celtics are, in fact, on his list in spite of constant reports that said Davis was not interested in playing for the Celtics.
Obviously, this is a game-changer for numerous reasons, assuming it is actually true.
First of all, it means that the Celtics will now be entirely comfortable dealing with the Pelicans, as they can safely include the likes of Jayson Tatum in a trade for Davis without worrying about Davis refusing to re-sign.
Also, it has a profound effect on the free-agent market, as Davis going to Boston would make it almost a sure-fire lock that Kyrie Irving stays with the Celtics, which could play a significant role in determining where Kevin Durant goes.
The question is, should Boston go all in for Davis?
Right now, the C’s are 37-21 and sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings. They got off to a very uninspiring 10-10 start this season, but since then, they have gone 27-11, posting the best net rating in the league over that span. Plus, the Celtics are 7-3 against the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers, so they have fared very well against their top competition in the East.
In spite of their rocky first month and a half, Boston is still clearly a Finals contender, possessing an incredibly deep roster top to bottom that no other team in the conference can match in terms of pure talent.
The C’s may very well make it to the Finals, and because of their length, toughness and defensive intensity, they could actually give the Golden State Warriors a run for their money.
Would the Celtics beat the Warriors? Probably not, but it would likely be a good series.
So, if Boston accomplishes all of that, should it still sell the farm for Davis?
Here is the thing: the C’s landing Davis goes beyond just improving the current team.
Let’s say the Celtics decide not to push their chips in for Davis, and he ends up going to the New York Knicks. That could end up having a domino effect, as it would open the door for Irving to leave and head to the Big Apple to play with Davis.
So, not only would Boston have lost Davis in that scenario, but it would lose Irving, as well.
This is a unique scenario for the C’s, as there is more at stake here than just trading for Davis.
Taking that into consideration, the Celtics may find themselves in a situation where they have no choice but to make a deal with New Orleans for the 25-year-old, as they would then avoid the risk of losing Irving, too.
The good news for Boston is that even if it does trade Tatum and other valuable pieces for Davis, it would then have a duo of Kyrie and AD, which would certainly be good enough to contend for titles for the next decade.
The key is which players the C’s give up in the deal.
Obviously, Tatum would have to be part of the package. He is the Celtics’ best asset, and he is almost surely the reason why the Pelicans turned down the Godfather offer from the Los Angeles Lakers that literally included all of their young talent.
But what Boston pieces together with Tatum is the question.
The main players the Pelicans will probably choose from are Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams. Heck, New Orleans might ask for all of them.
That’s where Danny Ainge needs to draw somewhat of a line.
Considering that the Celtics also have a wealth of draft picks to offer, Ainge can dial it back a bit on the amount of established NBA talent he includes in the deal, and if I’m Ainge, I am doing whatever I can to keep Smart out of the deal.
Smart has become the heart and soul of Boston and represents the team’s identity on the defensive end, so losing him would sting. Badly.
Hopefully for Ainge and the C’s, a package consisting of Tatum, Brown, Williams and draft picks would be enough to get a deal done, and to be perfectly honest, it should be.
Barring the Knicks landing the No. 1 overall pick, there is not a team out there who can match that combination of young talent and draft choices, so the Celtics should not even have to include Smart in their offer.
Even without Smart, make no mistake: the trade will hurt. Tatum is an up-and-coming star in his own right, and Brown is a very solid player who has All-Star potential. Williams is still raw, but he has shown flashes of terrific potential himself.
But you have to keep in mind who you are getting in return. You are getting Anthony Davis, who is still just 25 and is, at the very least, a top-five player in the game today and is only getting better.
An Irving-Davis duo would be lethal, to say the least, and Ainge is shrewd enough to surround those two with capable pieces to allow the Celtics to have a deep enough roster to contend for championships for years to come.
It is going to be tough, but this is a trade the Celtics have to make.