The NBA trade deadline is swiftly approaching. Head coach Brett Brown will do his best to maintain the team’s focus on playing basketball. GM Elton Brand will lead the charge to try to round out the team’s bench.
Both endeavors feel so tiny in the grand scheme of things when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski drops a bomb like he did this morning.
So what does it mean for Philadelphia?
It seems like the type of news that sends ripple effects throughout the entire league. There are a lot of teams that would like to make offers for Davis, an other-worldly talent, and one of the top five players in the NBA if not the best.
Kevin Durant helps us all keep things in perspective though:
Kevin Durant asked about Anthony Davis’ trade request and to what extent players talk about NBA news. KD keeps it in perspective: “AD wants to play somewhere else. It’s not like the president shutting down the government.” pic.twitter.com/uHxd9XUdeI— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) January 28, 2019
Philadelphia will likely be the subject of rumors here because of a Chris Sheridan report from November of 2018. In that report the Sixers were named as one of the team’s that Davis would consider playing for if traded.
“A source with intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the NBA told Get More Sports that Davis is considering five teams in the near and distant future: The Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers.”
The only real play the Sixers would have here is a trade centered around Ben Simmons. This makes a deal seem highly unlikely. But hypothetically, if Elton Brand and ownership decided they did not love the Simmons and Joel Embiid pairing, they could consider making an offer.
It’s not unforeseeable New Orleans would actually prefer Simmons to packages centered around Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball or Kyle Kuzma of the L.A. Lakers, Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics, or even the chance to draft Duke’s Zion Williamson. Simmons has been that good and is just 22 years old.
Simmons is eligible for an extension soon. That means the Pelicans would likely have Simmons under team control for up to four-years before he’d be in a similar situation that Davis is in now.
Simmons shares an agent with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, in Rich Paul. It stands to reason that the Pelicans would worry that with Simmons they could one-day suffer a similar fate they’re experiencing with Davis today. They might begin to worry about that within a year or two upon acquiring Simmons.
As for the Sixers, there would be no guarantee Davis would re-sign long term, and no guarantee that he and Embiid fit any better than Simmons and Embiid. So that would be a major gamble.
All of these factors make it seem highly unlikely the Sixers are realistic players in the AD sweepstakes, even if there were some mutual interest between Davis and the club.
There are some nightmare scenarios in play here. The Celtics acquiring Davis would be a big blow to the Sixers’ title odds over the coming years. The New York Knicks finding a way to acquire Davis and yet another superstar (like Kevin Durant who they have been linked to consistently) is at least in play.
On ESPN’s Get Up!, Brian Windhorst speculated that:
“The New York Knicks need to decide whether they would be willing to make their No. 1 pick unprotected this year available,” Windhorst said. “If they would, I believe they could put together a competitive offer that would help the Pelicans do a rebuild, and they could get their hands on Anthony Davis in the next 10 days.”
A team like the Knicks offering Porzingis and their own upcoming pick would make the Knicks dangerous. Alternatively, staying pat but eventually winning the first overall pick in the draft lottery would give New York more ways to eventually lure Davis and another star to pair him with. There exists a scenario where the Knicks could field Davis, Durant, and Porzingis should they win the lottery this May. Unicorns everywhere.
If Davis is not traded before the deadline, and the Knicks do not win the NBA Draft lottery, that increases the probabilities that Davis winds up in Boston. While a team like the Knicks or Bulls might feel confident they could re-sign Davis, small-market teams like the Hawks, Suns, or Cavs may not and prefer to keep a player like Zion Williamson.
There are a lot of ways the Celtics could win this bidding war.
For the Sixers finding ways to profit from the surrounding bidding-wars and chaos would be prudent. Teams will likely be trying to make their best offers for Davis right now, and also stock up on as many draft picks as they can at deadline to eventually sweeten a deal for Davis.
The Sixers can’t afford to ignore the surrounding market and just focus on improving their own team’s bench. By adopting a parochial view, they risk playing checkers while sharper opponents play chess.
I don’t have many answers for them today because I don’t know what deals they’ve had offered to them. But finding a way to prevent Davis from landing on a division rival and being able to eventually compete if he does should be on Brand’s mind in these coming weeks.
For example, if the Sixers were already considering acquiring a player like the Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and learned that doing so could move the needle in a deal that sent Davis out of the conference, that’s at least one more factor to consider.
Could the Sixers “help” a team like the Clippers pursue two-superstar dream scenarios while landing a player like Tobias Harris?
Simply rounding out the team’s bench is a worthy goal that could win the Sixers a playoff series. It could help them knock off a heated rival like the Celtics and also allow them to properly evaluate the fit among Simmons, Embiid and Jimmy Butler before committing to the trio long term.
But it also feels a bit small in the grand scheme of things when news like this breaks.