For all the hype surrounding Zion Williamson, the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery might ultimately be remembered for its impact on the impending Anthony Davis sweepstakes.
The path to AD got thornier for the Celtics on Tuesday night with chief rivals both emerging with glitzy new picks to offer, and New Orleans landing the No. 1 overall pick might just leave the Pelicans putting a hard sell on why Davis should consider coming back.
But with the “That’s All Folks” T-shirt still fresh in mind, it’s hard to see a path towards reconciliation. So the question becomes: Do the Celtics still have the necessary assets to entice New Orleans to make a deal?
What’s a bit more certain after the lottery is that the asking price might have gone up again, especially as teams like the Knicks and Lakers bolstered their offers by securing top spots in this year’s draft.
There could be mystery shoppers this summer — teams like Toronto or the Clippers can put together very intriguing offers depending on how the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes unfolds — but for the sake of post-lottery argument, the focus is on the three main Davis seekers: Celtics, Lakers, and Knicks.
What could each offer?
Boston could build a package with a mix of established young talent, proven NBA talent, and future picks by offering some combination of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, the future Grizzlies pick (which rolled into future seasons, where protections loosen), and some of Boston’s three first-round picks this year. Alas, that’s not all. Marcus Smart or Gordon Hayward might be needed to make salaries match, unless the Celtics’ front office can get creative.
The Lakers vaulted to the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft and can add that gem — albeit in a draft where the buzz currently surrounds the top three players — to last year’s mega-offer, which was some combination of Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and L.A.’s future first-round picks.
The Knicks whiffed on the top spot but landed at No. 3 and could package that with Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr., Mitchell Robinson, and some of their draft assets like the 2021 unprotected first-round pick acquired from Dallas in the Kristaps Porzingis trade. While missing out on Williamson made the path a bit tougher, there’s still a path to a super-team if the Knicks can recruit free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving before flipping assets for Davis, but it got a bit trickier by not winning the lotto.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the offer that ultimately pops most might hinge on what New Orleans general manager David Griffin desires. Typically, teams can’t ask for the moon for a player entering a contract year, but the Pelicans winning the lottery changes that a bit and puts the Pelicans in a bit more of a power position.
Timelines will also be interesting here. The Celtics would seemingly want to make an early charge at Davis in order to sell Irving on staying in Boston. The idea of a starting five with an Irving/Hayward/Horford/Davis combo should be mighty intriguing to both Irving and Horford as they contemplate their futures. Still, it’s a steep price to pay without a future commitment from Davis and could leave the Celtics leery.
Alas, between the Leonard revitalization and Boston’s own stinker of a season, it’s a friendly reminder that 1) Top-flight NBA talent is worth taking risks on and 2) Windows are fleeting and sometimes you just have to push your chips in. If the Celtics step back from the Davis pursuit, it adds a layer of intrigue to offseason roster construction and how the team might make the tweaks necessary to avoid what ailed it a year ago.
The question becomes, how much is Boston willing to pay for a move that has obvious short-term benefits but complicates the long-term vision? Is this team better off waiting for the next star to come along and hoping the price isn’t as prohibitive?
There are no easy answers and the lottery complicated matters. But Boston is still in the mix, which is about as much as it could have hoped for going into the ping pong madness of Tuesday night.
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