Why the Celtics cannot trade for Anthony Davis this season

Why the Celtics cannot trade for Anthony Davis this season

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.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.


If Jayson Tatum wants to play for Celtics his entire career, he can force the issue

If Jayson Tatum wants to play for Celtics his entire career, he can force the issue

For someone who didn’t play in Sunday night's main event, Jayson Tatum sure made the most of All-Star Weekend. 

He left us aww-ing when he brought his young son onto the court after the Rising Stars practice (with Danny Ainge joking he’s looking for an extra 2035 pick to select Deuce) and Tatum left us ooh-ing after his midcourt heave won the Skills Challenge. He erupted for 30 points in the Rising Stars game, playfully lobbied for a Taco Bell sponsorship after winning the skills competition, then boldly suggested the Celtics will deliver Banner 18 in June.

Alas, the Anthony Davis drama dominated the news cycle yet again. And Tatum’s name is never far from that conversation with the belief that Boston can put together the best package for Davis’ services this summer if it’s willing to include Tatum in a deal. For his part, Tatum has routinely shrugged off the trade chatter, stressing he can only control what he can control.

But Tatum did offer one other bold decree.

"I love being on the Celtics. I want to play there my whole career,” Tatum told ESPN during an on-camera interview at All-Star Weekend.


Tatum has at least 28 games to force that issue. If he truly wants to be with Boston deep into the future, he could potentially play himself into the “off limits” category with a strong performance over the final 24 regular-season games and into the postseason.

Ever since Jan. 30, when Tatum first got asked about being dragged into Davis trade rumors, Tatum has played like someone with extra motivation. Over Boston’s last eight games, Tatum is averaging 18.3 points per game on 48.2 percent shooting while adding 7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game. Tatum is plus-54 in plus/minus in that span (second best on the team, trailing only Gordon Hayward at plus-86).

Tatum put up 20 points and 10 rebounds in Boston’s win over the Philadelphia 76ers in the final week of the first half and has scored 20 points or more in four of his last eight games.

These glimpses leave Celtics fans leery of whether the team should include him in any deal for Davis, though most recognize it might simply be the cost to acquire an elite NBA talent. There’s a line of thought, though, that the steep price tag that will be required for Davis’ services might not be worth it if the Celtics put together another long playoff run, particularly with Tatum on the books at team-friendly money for the next couple years.

Tatum can make Ainge think harder about any Davis pursuit, and just how much the team would be willing to give up for him, by emerging an impact player during Boston’s stretch run and into the postseason. The more success the Celtics have in the playoffs, the more likely the team might be to simply allow this young core to develop together (and the team could still seek outside help with its other assets, including a bevy of future first-round picks).


Tatum hasn’t made the sort of leap that many expected in Year 2, in part because of the absurd expectations established from the very moment he dunked on LeBron James in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. In the absence of that sophomore surge, it’s been easy for some Celtics fans to justify including Tatum in a deal that would land a certified top-5 talent like Davis.

But Tatum continues to show flashes of his future potential, all while Davis’ camp postured like the player didn’t envision a long-term future in Boston (even if that was just spin in hopes of forcing a deal to the Lakers before the deadline).

Tatum is having a solid season and it can be argued that he was Boston’s best option for an All-Star behind Kyrie Irving. Yes, he had a propensity for ill-advised long 2s early in the season — and Celtics fans are still blaming his offseason sessions with Kobe Bryant for his poor shot selection — but he’s attacking more often now and getting the charity stripe more frequently. His 3-point shot has defied him after a brilliant rookie season behind the arc and his scoring averages would pop a bit more if that shot became a more consistent weapon moving forward.

The Celtics have leaned heavily on Irving to carry them at times this season but their postseason success might hinge on the likes of Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward being able to shoulder the load when teams try to bottle up Irving.

It’s not hard to see a correlation between Tatum’s success and that of the team. The Celtics are 23-0 when Tatum is +9 or better in plus/minus, and 29-2 when he’s +6 or better. They are 2-14 when Tatum is in the negative for plus-minus. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise considering Tatum plays the second most minutes on the team (31.2) but it’s still reflective that, if Boston wins his floor time, they put themselves in position to win the game.


For the season, Irving owns the best net rating on the team among all high-volume players (700+ minutes) at plus-8.9. Tatum sits right beside him at plus-8.8. Tatum has the best defensive rating among all of Boston’s starters at 103.2, or 2.5 points lower than Boston’s season average (which ranks fifth overall in the NBA). Tatum still has strides to make as an individual defender and must make defense a priority on every possession, but he clearly has the length to consistently disrupt on that end of the floor.

Tatum’s future is tantalizing to think about and the Celtics will certainly do all they can to make a Davis deal without having to include him. It’s simply hard to see any path to that possibility. Even if Brown has a great postseason, Boston’s pick stash might not be quite bountiful enough to sway the Pelicans without the inclusion of Tatum. The team must hope there’s only a small market of bidders to force New Orleans’ hand a bit.

What the team does might also hinge on the desires of Irving, who can opt out of his deal and explore free agency. If dealing for Davis could secure a commitment from Irving, the team has to consider it harder, despite the pain point in dealing a young talent like Tatum. Complicating matters: Tatum and Irving share an agent and have a strong relationship (Irving’s demands for more from the young players, notwithstanding). 

As Tatum admitted: He can only control what he can control. A strong finish to the season gives Ainge more to think about. If Tatum wants to be here for his entire career, he has to play like a player that Ainge can’t deal.


Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Report: Anthony Davis still doesn't see Boston as "a long term destination"

USA Today Sports

Report: Anthony Davis still doesn't see Boston as "a long term destination"

Anthony Davis has been all over the map when it comes to talking about his future plans.

After declaring that all of the other 29 teams in the NBA are on his "list" of destinations—despite the fact it is widely believed Davis is merely eyeing a rendezvous on the Lakers with LeBron James, a report suggests that despite the fanfare, the Celtics are simply not regarded as a destination by Davis.

According to Shams Charania of Stadium:

“There are a couple other teams right now undisclosed that he would also consider,” Charania said. “The Celtics, I’m told, are still not a long-term destination for him of preference in his mind. Where the Celtics stand has not changed despite what Anthony Davis said over the weekend. Sources told me the Celtics are not in it as far as the long-term play, but listen, it’s going to depend exactly on where the Pelicans want to trade him.”

Davis' approach is political as much as anything else. It makes sense that Davis does not want to turn off or anger the team the New Orleans Pelicans will trade him to, while the superstar Power Forward and Center still would have time remaining on his contract regardless of where he ends up.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.