With the 2019 NBA Draft approaching and the New Orleans Pelicans owning the No. 1 pick, the future of frustrated superstar Anthony Davis has come into question, with the New York Knicks emerging once again as a potential landing spot for the want-away star.
The 2019 Draft Lottery was perhaps one of the more stressful nights in recent memory for fans of the New York Knicks, who had swallowed watching their team tank to the worst record in the league in the 2018-19 season knowing it was the first step on the “Road to Zion.” But when the envelopes were opened on draft night and the New Orleans Pelicans came away with the No. 1 pick, a monkey wrench was thrown into the complex futures of Anthony Davis, the Pelicans and the Knicks.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Anthony Davis made clear to the Pelicans’ ownership earlier in the year that he intended not to resign with the team once his contract was up at the end of the 2019-20 season. This led to speculation on where Davis would end up if traded, with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Knicks emerging as potential front runners to make a move for the player.
As noted, the Knicks “aggressively” pursued a trade for Davis, shopping Kristaps Porzingis and the potential draft rights for the Knicks lottery pick ahead of the 2018-19 trade deadline.
Davis was not moved at the deadline, but according to the New York Post‘s Brian Lewis, despite winning the 2019 Draft Lottery, “the thought of playing alongside another generational talent in presumptive No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson hasn’t appeared to soften Davis’ stance.” In recent weeks fans and media personalities have speculated on the Knicks, Lakers, Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets as potential landing spots for Davis this offseason.
The upside for the Knicks trading for Davis this offseason are obvious: Davis is a generational talent who has established himself as one of the best players in the NBA and a perennial MVP candidate, all ahead of his 27th birthday. The thought of the Knicks teaming Davis up with another superstar such as Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant is mind-blowing, and would almost immediately establish the Knicks as a playoff team and possible championship contender for years to come.
But the downsides of a trade for Anthony Davis would be far larger than just the No. 3 pick and some promising young players.
As FanSided’s Preston Ellis theorized, a realistic trade package that the Knicks could put together for Davis would most likely include the following:
- 2019 No. 3 draft pick
- Mitchell Robinson
- Kevin Knox or Dennis Smith Jr.
- Salary filler players such as Lance Thomas or John Jenkins
- Future first round picks
Looking at this trade package, the most frightening aspect is how much the Knicks would be giving up for very little back guaranteed.
Anthony Davis’ current contract ends after the 2019-2020 season, with a player option worth $28.75 for the 2020-2021 season. The Knicks would be giving up at least 2 current pieces of their young core, a lottery pick and future first round picks, and who knows how many members of their current roster for 1 player in return who is only guaranteed to play for the team for next season.
If this is starting to feel eerily familiar, it should: the Knicks did practically the same thing 8 years ago. During the 2010-2011 season, the Knicks made a blockbuster trade for Carmelo Anthony which sent multiple young players, veterans, and draft picks out of New York for one of the NBA’s best players. Similar to Davis, Melo had expressed frustration at the direction of the Denver Nuggets and was rumored to want a trade away from the franchise, turning down a reported 3-year/$65 million contract extension offer in favor of becoming a free agent in the 2011 offseason.
While this deal immediately made the Knicks a contender in the Eastern Conference and would lead to some of the most competitive Knicks teams in recent memory, it can be argued that it also hamstrung the future ability of the franchise to build a team around Melo.
The loss of future draft picks and assets that could have been used to build more competitive teams was a blow in and of itself, but the fact that it was done in a deal for a player that could have been acquired in free agency makes the Melo trade seem almost pointless.
With the prospect of a similar deal looming on the horizon ahead of the 2019 NBA Draft, it would best serve the Knicks as a franchise to learn from their history so as not to be doomed to repeat it.