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Rumor: Pelicans’ top target in Anthony Davis trade is Jayson Tatum

New Orleans Pelicans v Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 10: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics drives against Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans at TD Garden on December 10, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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The big name in Anthony Davis trade talks last February (besides Davis himself) was someone who realistically wouldn’t get dealt.

Jayson Tatum loomed over the process. The Celtics can’t trade for Davis until July, because Kyrie Irving is already their one allowable traded-for designated-rookie-scale player. So, Boston had to convince the Pelicans to keep Davis past the deadline. Their reward this offseason could be Tatum.

But so much has changed since.

Tatum continued an underwhelming second season. New Orleans fired Dell Demps and hired David Griffin to run the front office. Kyrie Irving appears likely to leave the Celtics, which would make it more difficult for them to re-sign Davis in 2020.

Does Boston still want Davis as badly? Do the Pelicans still value Tatum so highly?

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

From what I’ve been able to learn, if Kyrie Irving walks, it is not going to diminish their appetite to go get Anthony Davis.
From what I understand, they’re not going to take their foot off the gas when it comes to pursuing Anthony Davis.
I know that there’s a stronger sense than ever within the organization that Kyrie Irving is going to leave.

Fletcher Mackel of WDSU

Tatum is still a valuable player. He’s young, talented and relatively cheap. But his stock has probably dropped enough since the trade deadline that it opens doors for other teams to beat Boston’s offer for Davis. Even if Tatum remains the Pelicans’ most-desired player, other teams could offer better packages of multiple players and picks.

Especially because the Celtics should show some restraint considering Irving’s likely impending exit.

Davis reportedly wouldn’t rule out staying in Boston without Irving. But that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. Davis’ father enters the situation with a unfavorable view of the Celtics.

Without Irving, Tatum and whatever else they must send New Orleans, how good would the Davis-led Celtics be? There’d be a lot riding on Gordon Hayward rediscovering his star production after injury, Al Horford staving off aging (if he doesn’t opt out and leave) and Jaylen Brown getting back into a groove after an uneven year. It’d be a huge risk.

Of course, having a Davis trade in place could convince Irving to re-sign. That might be a longshot, but the possibility of a star twofer should factor.

Boston reportedly could have traded for Kawhi Leonard, who now has the Raptors on the brink of a championship. Sometimes, the big swing pays off, and seeing it happen for Toronto could prompt the Celtics to take their own this summer.