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Roundtable: Could Anthony Davis be a Nugget?

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With a bombshell report that the Pelicans superstar has requested a trade, could the Nuggets be a team that trades for the All-Star forward?

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Through his agent Rich Paul, Anthony Davis has made it known that he’s requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. Should the Nuggets try to acquire him? What would be the cost?

Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): Talent wins in the NBA. Nikola Jokic is an incredibly talented player. Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Will Barton are all exceptionally talented. Anthony Davis is on another level though. Despite supporting cast issues plaguing his time in New Orleans, he would find the perfect situation in Denver. With Nikola Jokic’s ability to be a playmaker, especially at the top of the key, Davis would hold free rein inside the arc. How many teams have the personnel to properly match up with the Nuggets when Davis and Jokic are on the floor at the same time? Very few, if any. The cost for Denver likely involves four of Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, and Michael Porter Jr., plus a first round pick or two. If Denver can stomach such a heavy cost, then they may be in the running of the Anthony Davis sweepstakes.

Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan): Not without an agreement that he’ll re-sign in Denver. I’m old enough to remember when the Nuggets had to overpay to keep players like Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler here in Denver. What’s stopping Davis from leaving at the end of the 2019-20 season for the Lakers? Nothing. You can point to Paul George staying in Oklahoma City, but Anthony Davis isn’t Paul George — they’re different people, with different priorities, and they make different decisions. If you trade too much to get Davis, now the rest of your team sucks, and you’ve just become the 2017-18 Pelicans. You cannot simply add shooting and playmaking for cheap to fill out a championship level roster around Davis and Jokic. This cannot be done, has not been done in NBA history, and will not happen in Denver. They’d need a third star, and they don’t have one if they have to sell their young core to get Davis.

Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): Anthony Davis is both an outstanding, HOF-level player and a tremendous fit with Nikola Jokic in a front court that would torture opponents for a decade. If you can make the trade, you do it. A likely cost of Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap and Michael Porter Jr. plus a couple of picks does not leave the cupboard bare, but I would attempt to bring Jrue Holiday along also (as Dan would) if Denver was going to go the whole way. Denver trading its whole starting backcourt for Davis, plus Porter and picks is a tough sell, both for fans and for Connelly who rightfully loves all these guys and the players they are growing into, but if you get Jrue out of there as well suddenly you turn your point guard into a defender and make sure Davis has someone he knows he enjoys playing with to ease the transition.

There are versions of the deal that would leave Monte Morris and Malik Beasley here, as well as Jarred Vanderbilt, and all of a sudden Denver has an 8 or 9 man rotation that works while also being superstar top-heavy the way most true playoff competitors are. You don’t want to be the Knicks and empty the cupboards for your incoming star, but Denver has enough in the cupboards to use a consolidation trade as a way to realign their stars and the ultimate destination of this team in a way that has never been done in team history. They tried it with Allen Iverson at the end of his career, and Chauncey Billups on the downside. This is with a superstar in his prime. If you can add one to Jokic then you do - and you trust that Jokic will continue to make everyone you add around him better.

Brendan Vogt (@Bvogt422): Every team should be trying to acquire Anthony Davis. Denver has enough young assets for a seat at the table but it would cost the farm, and that’s a risky proposition considering they’d never get a verbal agreement to an extension. Ultimately this is a pipe dream.

What is your best fake trade for Anthony Davis that doesn’t involve the Nuggets?

Blackburn: I’m going with the Brooklyn Nets. I’d love to see the Nets win back some good fortune after a terrible mishap set their franchise back for years. A package centered around D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, and Jarrett Allen to go with multiple draft picks puts the Nets into the running of this discussion. If they were to acquire Davis, they’d have an opportunity to lure other free agents to Brooklyn as well. Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Khris Middleton, Tobias Harris, and Kemba Walker are just some of the names they could acquire in free agency, and the prospect of playing with Davis in Brooklyn would make the Nets an extremely attractive destination.

Lewis: Mine is a three-team trade.

  • Send Anthony Davis and, Wesley Matthews, and Tim Frazier to the Bucks.
  • Send Jrue Holiday, Ersan Ilyasova, and Jason Smith to the Mavericks.
  • Send Eric Bledsoe, Dennis Smith Jr., and Tony Snell to the Pelicans.

The Mavericks and Bucks would have to give up first round picks, but that’s a trade that gives New Orleans a young prospect, a solid wing player, a guard they can try to re-sign or use that cap space on someone else, and draft assets (from Dallas) that aren’t practically second round picks.

Gross: It’s the Lakers. Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, the concession dude, the floor squeegie guy, a marketer...

Vogt: Literally anything that doesn’t send him to LA or Boston.

What is the ceiling of the Nuggets after your Anthony Davis trade?

Blackburn: A championship contender, even with the current Golden State Warriors still intact. There are very few teams that could match up with the Nuggets’ two big lineup, and the Warriors would struggle just as much. Draymond Green is an awesome defender, but his primary issues defensively stem just his short stature. DeMarcus Cousins still lacks the mobility to stay in front of Jokic or Davis consistently. Even if Denver can’t match up with Golden State’s superstar scorers, they’d be the second most talented team in the West. By definition, a Western Conference Finals appearance feels well within their ceiling while the current Warriors team is constructed. If that ever changes, the Nuggets are a championship contender.

Lewis: In my fake AD2CO trade, they’re getting Holiday and Davis, so their ceiling is quite a bit higher. I think they’d still have enough talent to make the Western Conference Finals, but I don’t think anyone is capable of beating the Warriors. It’s another reason I’m hesitant to acquire Davis if I’m Tim Connelly.

Gross: The ceiling this year or the ceiling going forward? This year, it’s probably the Western Conference Finals. Next year and going forward? Davis and Jokic together make them contenders every year. It’s a combo that can absolutely bring rings.

Vogt: If Denver can somehow pull off an Anthony Davis trade and keep Jamal, the ceiling is a team that contends for a title, depending on what happens to Golden State. I highly doubt that’s on the table, though.

Denver has had their own versions of players requesting trades. How do you feel about trade requests? Does the player have to be a certain level of star? How early in their contract can they ask for a trade? Does your opinion change depending on what teams they request to be traded to?

Blackburn: I believe that a player should be allowed to express their unhappiness publicly, especially if they have expressed that unhappiness privately to no avail. It’s tough to spend years of your career in a situation that you would rather avoid. One never knows when an NBA career could be cut short, whether it be by injury or other circumstances. If a player’s goal is to just be happy, it’s hard to hold that against them. There are professional ways to express unhappiness, and while most franchises would surely hope that a player avoids sharing that unhappiness in a public way, time is ticking away on that player’s career.

Lewis: If Davis really wanted to play somewhere like Los Angeles, and has felt that way for a long time, there’s an easy solution - accept the qualifying offer for your rookie contract, and sign with them in the offseason. A contract is a legally binding document, and players routinely try to act as if they don’t exist. When players like Marquese Chriss are demanding a trade, it’s gone too far. And yes, if they talk about “a desire to win” and ask to get traded to the Knicks or Lakers, I don’t believe them for a second. If players really wanted to win, they’d be looking to join franchises with stable ownership groups, excellent practice facilities, and deep rosters with talented players that are under contract for multiple years.

Gross: I don’t begrudge players the desire to leave a place, especially on teams where ownership and management are a mess and they’ve been lied to or misled. I do begrudge them the lip service of “going somewhere I’m wanted” or whatever and then picking the same kind of losing franchise they just got out of, or wanting the big city life halfway through a deal.

Vogt: I’m all about player autonomy (as long as the results are congruent with my rooting interests).

What words of advice would you give to Pelicans fans who are waking up today realizing the star player on their favorite team wants out?

Blackburn: I would offer solace that it’s not for the lack of passion that New Orleans fans provide and rather the lack of opportunity the Pelicans franchise has offered Davis during his time there. The Pelicans are the perfect example of a rebuilding team that chose to skip steps of their rebuild. Trading sequential first round picks, signing pricy free agents, and forgoing the development of young players put the Pelicans in this situation. That caused the Pelicans to crash and burn, even with one of the top 5 NBA talents on their roster. The good news: now the Pelicans can focus on starting over, doing things the right way, and taking the steps it needs to be a sustained power in the West. That means losing Anthony Davis now, but it means a higher probability of a championship in the future. That may seem backwards, but it’s not. This is the best course for all parties.

Lewis: This is a chance to finally get the leadership in the front office you’ve been craving. Dell Demps’ big free agent signings of the Anthony Davis era were Solomon Hill and Julius Randle — how he’s still employed, is a mystery. Hopefully ownership will do their due diligence and bring someone on board that can execute a vision that will result in your team finding success. Your team has players that can get draft assets, and in time, with a little luck, you’ll be a playoff contender.

Gross: It’s a chance to scrub things clean. The Nuggets knew it was coming with Carmelo Anthony and hired Masai Ujiri to oversee the transition after the former front office failed to add the necessary pieces around him. Ujiri got quite a large ransom for Carmelo despite some handicaps with the locations Anthony would accept, and the Nuggets went through two transitions after that to get to this point. The Pelicans can win without Davis, and they can use the pieces they got from the Davis trade to build the next playoff-caliber roster as well. All is not lost when Davis goes - but it will be different. Remember him fondly, despite the What Ifs, and hope that your team invests in the right people to bring you fanbase the long-term results you deserve.

Vogt: At least you have the Sai—