The New Orleans Pelicans plan to listen to offers on All-NBA center Anthony Davis but won’t make a deal before next Thursday’s NBA trade deadline unless they’re offered an overwhelming package for the franchise’s star, league sources told ESPN.
Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka are planning to make an aggressive push to acquire Davis prior to the Feb. 7 trade deadline, armed with confidence that Davis wants to play for the Lakers and would sign an extension, league sources said.
The Lakers are expected to talk with the Pelicans soon, league sources said.
After agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports told ESPN on Monday that he had informed the Pelicans that Davis wouldn’t sign an extension this summer and wanted a trade, multiple league sources expect the agent and star to soon deliver word throughout the league that Davis’ preferred destination is the Lakers and he’ll become a rental player until 2020 with a trade anywhere else.
It would be an attempt to depress offers in the marketplace, a way to perhaps make the Lakers’ trade package more appealing.
New Orleans is operating with an understanding that the Lakers’ best deadline offer could still be available to the Pelicans in the offseason — once the asset-rich Boston Celtics can become factors in the Davis discussions.
“We will do this on our terms and our deadline,” the Pelicans said in a statement Monday.
The Lakers resisted unloading assets for Paul George in 2017, although they were more aggressive in pursuing ex-San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard last year. The Lakers were reluctant to believe that the Spurs wanted to make a deal with them, no matter what L.A. offered. If Davis wants to play with the Lakers, there’s ultimately no stopping him from signing in Los Angeles in free agency in July of 2020.
The Lakers are willing to forfeit the flexibility of a max contract slot in 2019 free agency for the chance to turn a combination of picks and their young assets — who include Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball — to acquire Davis.
Still, Boston looms as a threat to every team in the process once the Celtics are no longer constrained from adding a player on a Designated Rookie Extension. After Kyrie Irving — whose contract is under the same extension — becomes a free agent on July 1, Boston is able to officially acquire Davis in a trade. An agreement could be in place well before that date and finalized on July 1.
GM Danny Ainge is undeterred on making a trade for Davis, even without an assurance that Davis would agree to an extension with the Celtics, league sources said. Boston has been calling New Orleans for the past year-plus on Davis, and have gathered multiple first-round picks and young players to include in a package for him. Davis has a strong relationship with Irving, and Boston knows that trading for Davis would assuredly perish any possibility of Irving changing his mind and leaving the Celtics in free agency this summer.
Several teams told ESPN that they’re already weighing the possibility of making offers for Davis, including contenders who’d be willing to use Davis to chase a championship this season and perhaps recoup assets lost in a trade to New Orleans by flipping Davis at auction after the season — or keeping him into the final year of his contract.
Davis is eligible to sign a five-year, $239.5 million supermax extension this summer. He can become a free agent in the summer of 2020. Paul did not place pressure on the Pelicans to move Davis prior to next week’s trade deadline, sources said.
“Anthony wants to be traded to a team that allows him a chance to win consistently and compete for a championship,” Paul told ESPN on Monday morning. “Anthony wanted to be honest and clear with his intentions and that’s the reason for informing them of this decision now. That’s in the best interests of both Anthony’s and the organization’s future.”
ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks contributed to this report