Pelicans wanting third team in Davis trade is a good thing for Celtics

Pelicans wanting third team in Davis trade is a good thing for Celtics

BOSTON -- No one said Boston’s efforts in acquiring Anthony Davis from New Orleans was going to be easy. 

And when David Griffin, executive vice president of basketball operations for the Pelicans, was brought on board, knowing his track record of success when it comes to deal-making… you knew it was only going to get trickier and a lot tougher for Boston. 

Well, now that Griffin has reportedly made it known what his parameters for the moment are in getting a deal done for Davis — an All-Star, a young talent with All-Star potential and a pair of first-round picks — the Celtics have to feel fortunate that he also said a deal would likely involve a third team. 

That means there’s the increased potential for Boston to swing a deal for the perennial All-Star and do so without having to necessarily gut its roster. 

Now any deal involving Boston acquiring Davis will be a tough, painful one to accept because you know it’s going to involve Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown or both players. 

But by injecting a third team in the mix, Boston has a shot at coming out of this without having to subject the roster to a scorching-of-the-earth shake-up. 

There’s always some level of risk involved when making any kind of trade, regardless of how Uber-talented the player may be. 

But with Davis set to hit the free agent market in the summer of 2020, any team trading for him runs the risk of him showing up for one season and taking off to another franchise afterwards. 

But by acquiring him with fewer assets than a straight team-to-team trade would entail, his potential departure doesn’t feel as much like a potential crash landing if he leaves, but more like a turbulent descent onto the runway that we know as NBA basketball. 

The success Toronto has had with gambling on trading for Kawhi Leonard has certainly made some more confident that they have a situation with their franchise that could be enticing enough for Davis to do a one-year stint and win enough to where re-signing doesn’t seem all that far-fetched. 

But there’s one slight hiccup with that narrative.

Leonard hasn’t re-signed with the Raptors yet and may not, even after leading them to the NBA Finals and potentially the franchise’s first NBA championship.

The Raptors have done all they can to make their case as to why Leonard should stay long-term, but in the end that may not be enough. 

Teams trading for Davis will surely be better with him on the roster in terms of wins and losses, but they will also do like the Raptors did and spend an entire season walking on eggshells for fear that the slightest slight or off-handed remarks or comments taken out of context, may wind up being what makes him decide to play elsewhere. 

The Celtics did much of that this past season with Kyrie Irving, whose return didn’t have the kind of difference-making impact that Boston was hoping for. 

After advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2018 while Irving (knee) and Gordon Hayward (ankle) were out with physical ailments, both were back with the main group before getting bounced in the second round of the playoffs by Milwaukee last month. 

Both players struggled, but Irving’s problems stood out in large part because of the bravado he spoke of prior to the series, which ended with the Bucks winning four in a row after dropping Game 1 at home. 

Do the Celtics want to go through that again? 

Of course not. 

But if they can add Davis without having to gut their roster, something that seems less likely if you’re talking about adding a third team to the mix, Boston won’t hesitate to take yet another gamble on a difference-making superstar like Davis who has the potential to do what matters most to this franchise: Raise Banner 18. 

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Kawhi Leonard injury: Clippers star reportedly expected to play vs. Celtics

Kawhi Leonard injury: Clippers star reportedly expected to play vs. Celtics

All signs are pointing toward one of the NBA's top-five players playing in Wednesday night's showdown between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard has missed the last three games with a left knee injury, but ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk and Adrian Wojnarowski have reported the two-time NBA Finals MVP is expected to play versus the C's.

Leonard has played in nine of the Clippers' 14 games this season. Whether he's actually injured or just using load management to keep himself fresh for the playoffs, it's exciting that he's likely to play against a Celtics team with championship aspirations after a strong start to the campaign.

Boston leads the Eastern Conference standings with an 11-2 record and owns the sixth-best defensive rating in the league. Celtics guard Marcus Smart was named to the NBA's All-Defense first team last season, and he's making a compelling case in 2019-20 to be the Defensive Player of the Year award winner. Smart likely will be tasked with guarding Leonard, and that matchup will be awesome to watch. 

Leonard is averaging 26.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and six assists per game this season, and the Clippers are 7-2 with him in the lineup. He's not the only superstar forward the C's must stop, though. Paul George is back after missing the first few weeks of the season. He's averaging 29.3 points in 24.3 minutes over three games.

Marcus Smart reveals his pick for NBA's most unstoppable player>>>

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Clippers, which tips off Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

NBA Rumors: These Celtics players are off-limits in trade deadline talks

NBA Rumors: These Celtics players are off-limits in trade deadline talks

The Boston Celtics may need to upgrade their frontcourt if they want to compete with the beasts of the NBA's Eastern Conference.

But to get something good, you need to give something good in return ... and the Celtics don't seem willing to do that at the moment.

Here's what ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported in his column Wednesday about the prospects of Boston trading for a big man before the Feb. 7 NBA trade deadline:

While one could have some fun with the Trade Machine, Boston has made it clear to anyone who has asked that their core players are absolutely not available. That includes, sources said, both (Gordon) Hayward and (Marcus) Smart, players who have been floated as possible trade chips in the past.

Windhorst didn't confirm who Boston's other "core players" are, but we can fill in the gaps: If Hayward and Smart are off the table, Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown aren't going anywhere, either.

Can the Celtics really make an upgrade in the frontcourt without moving one of their five best players?

If they do, a trade almost certainly would need to include the Memphis Grizzlies' first-round pick, which is top-six protected for 2020 and is Danny Ainge's best trade chip. The C's also should get the Milwaukee Bucks' first-rounder in addition to their own.

But even if draft picks can lure a big man like Clint Capela, Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge, the Celtics still would have a hard time matching salaries: Outside the five "core players," only Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis (both big men) are making more than $4 million on Boston's roster.

Seven-footers like Joel Embiid and Brook Lopez could pose a problem for the Celtics in the playoffs, so expect Ainge to do his big man due diligence, even as the C's enter Wednesday as the East's No. 1 seed at 11-2. A major trade at the deadline may be easier said than done, though.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Clippers, which tips off Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.