The trade talk surrounding New Orleans Pelicans’ superstar Anthony Davis has dominated NBA discussions this season.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics are most often mentioned as potential suitors for Davis, but there is another team with a combination of young talent and a draft asset that could make a serious offer to the Pels.
It’s Davis’ hometown Chicago Bulls.
What The Bulls Can Offer
Any Bulls deal for Davis would likely need to be centered around Jabari Parker and perhaps Robin Lopez. Parker is in the first year of a two-year $40 million deal, with the second year non-guaranteed via a team option.
Lopez is in the final year of a four-year $54 million contract that pays him $14.5 million this season.
The Pelicans would need to take one or both of those deals in a trade from the Bulls. Clearly, the Pelicans aren’t trading Davis to the Bulls for Parker and Lopez.
Chicago could offer promising rookie Wendell Carter Jr., point guard Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis, all 24 years old or younger, along with its first-round selection for the 2019 NBA Draft.
Why That’s Appealing
That’s quite a haul, but the Pels still might not get equal value for their star with that package.
The thing is if they believe Davis is not going to re-sign with them after next season, New Orleans’ brain trust has to ask itself, can we get a better deal than this in a year?
I’m not sure they can. Remember, the Bulls have one of the three worst records in the NBA.
While they have been playing a little better of late, and obviously adding Davis would presumably make them even better, they’re too far gone to climb into the postseason.
That pick is going to be a lottery selection, and the package of young players is promising enough with Carter Jr., Dunn, and Portis, to give the Pelicans a decent push off into the post-Brow era.
Parker and Lopez’s inclusion is there to make the numbers work. Both deals come off the books at the end of the season and the Pelicans can attempt to rebuild with the new core of young players, the newly acquired draft pick and the free-agent market.
The Bulls would be sending approximately $45 million in salary for the current season (prorated, of course) to the Pelicans, so that means New Orleans has to send a comparable amount in return.
An offer of Davis ($25 million), Solomon Hill ($12.5 million) Wesley Johnson ($6.1 million), and a swap in picks, with the Pels taking the higher of the first-round selections, would total a little over $43 million.
Now the deal becomes financially feasible.
Why Bulls Package Is Better Than The Celtics And Lakers
The Celtics have access to three first-round picks this offseason, and that’s a great basis for a package. However, none of those selections figures to be higher than the Bulls’ first-round pick.
The Sacramento Kings’ pick had the most promise, but the team’s surprising success has dulled the shine of the pick. It might not even turn out to be a lottery pick.
If the Celtics’ picks turn out to be a 15, 17 and 20th selection, and Boston couples that with Jaylen Brown and another throw-in player to bring the numbers closer, there are less proven commodities in that offer.
With mid-to-late round picks, teams are likely to feel less confident about their returns. New Orleans can already see what Carter Jr, Dunn and Portis are capable of based on performance in the NBA.
Carter Jr. has definite All-Star potential, Dunn could be a fringe All-Star and Portis is a solid starter/sixth-man–and the Bulls could still swap picks.
The Lakers’ deal would likely have more proven young players in Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, but its draft pick will be in the 20s–though the Pels probably wouldn’t need to swap picks in this instance.
Still, there simply isn’t as much depth there and at this point, I’d be higher on Carter Jr. than Ingram or Ball.
For a number of reasons, the Bulls’ potential offer looks better than both packages the Celtics and Lakers can produce.
What It Leaves For The Pels
There is no replacing Davis, at least not in one season, but it’s better to get something for him than to watch him leave for free after the 2019-20 season.
Heading into the 2019-20 campaign, the Pels could still have a core of Jrue Holiday, Julius Randle, Carter Jr., Dunn, Portis, E’Twaun Moore, and the rookie it drafts in June.
The team would need to decide if it wants to re-sign Nikola Mirotic and Elfrid Payton. If it can be done, that’s not a bad rotation of players.
I’d say the Pels would land on their feet as much as can be expected.
What It Leaves For Bulls
This is actually a much bigger gamble for the Bulls than it is for the Pelicans. Fresignteam to even consider parting ways with so many assets, it would have to feel confident it can get Davis to re-sign after the 2019-20 season.
It could use the local card, but it might not weigh heavier than the prospects of playing for a title in Los Angeles with LeBron James and receiving recruiting calls from Magic Johnson.
However, if the Bulls uncharacteristically offered that sort of package, they would still have a promising core themselves, and the bonafide superstar they have lacked since Derrick Rose’s MVP season.
With Ryan Arcidiacano, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, and Davis, the team has a strong 1, 2, 4 and five. It still needs a small forward to have a bonafide starting lineup. Perhaps that’s Denzel Valentine, Justin Holiday or rookie Chandler Hutchinson–especially after a year of development.
Also, Chicago would be bringing in another rookie from the 2019 draft, and it still has the financial flexibility to add to the roster via free agency.
There are a lot of ifs here, as is the case with any trade scenario, but this deal could work for both teams.