The Celtics make their lone visit to New Orleans tonight and, given Boston’s early season struggles, it will invariably be suggested — or maybe daydreamed, is the better word -- that the Celtics ought to find a way to pry Anthony Davis from the Pelicans.

A friendly public service announcement before you waste your entire day on the Trade Machine: The Celtics cannot trade for Davis this season, at least not without moving Kyrie Irving.

The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement has a clause for what’s called “designated players,” which was designed to help elite young talent earn a higher percentage of the salary cap when coming off their rookie-scale deals. Nicknamed the “Rose Rule,” in honor of Derrick Rose, players can earn up to 30 percent of the cap by hitting certain benchmarks. 

Both Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis took advantage of this provision while inking their current deals. Here’s the hitch: Teams can only trade for one player extended via the Rose Rule, meaning that Boston cannot currently trade for Davis, having already acquired Irving via trade.

This hurdle should disappear this summer when Irving is expected to opt out of the final year of his current deal and re-sign a max-contract extension with the Celtics. He’ll no longer be a “Rose Rule” guy at that point and Boston would be able to pursue any such player via trade.

Yes, the Celtics could currently entertain a trade where Irving and Davis were swapped, but that seems highly unlikely.


Davis’ future will remain a hot topic around the NBA, even though he can’t trigger his own early termination option until after the 2019-2020 season. Still, if the Pelicans struggle to contend and Davis eventually expresses public frustration, it could encourage the Pelicans to explore deals in fear of losing him as a free agent further down the road.

Like Boston, New Orleans is a disappointing 10-10, and sits on the fringe of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Still, it’s in the Pelicans’ best interest to try to examine moves to make their team a legitimate contender while they have Davis.

It’s worth remembering, too, that the Celtics’ future-assets treasure chest isn’t quite as glitzy as it once seemed. Boston’s ace card has been the future first-round pick it acquired from the Sixers as part of the Jayson Tatum swap in the summer of 2017. The Kings are set to convey their first-round pick to Boston in the upcoming draft, so long as it’s not the top overall selection.

But Sacramento is one of the surprising teams in the league, sitting above .500 entering Sunday’s action. It would seem likely that the Kings will eventually fall back to Earth and their pick is still projected as a lottery selection. But it simply might not be as high as many anticipated coming into the year.

The Celtics could have as many as four first-round picks in next year’s draft but only because, like the Kings, some of the teams that owe them selections have overachieved thus far. Boston is also set to collect picks from Memphis (if 7+) and the Los Angeles Clippers (if 15+). 

Boston is still in line to have all four of those picks but here’s the sobering part: Their best selection, at that moment, would have been their own at No. 16 (the Kings, Grizzlies, and Clippers picks were all 18+).

The Celtics still have plenty of young talent to work with in any potential trade packages that would also include future picks, but it’s getting harder to see a path to acquiring an elite talent without Boston having to give up some of its best young players in those deals.

All of which only reaffirms: Step away from the Trade Machine. Davis isn’t coming this season. Let’s see how this year plays out for all parties and those daydreams can always start again in the summer.

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