Amongst the craziness of the NBA playoffs, the New York Knicks sit and watch some of the stars they hope to sign in summer. But a big splash might also come in the form of trading for New Orleans Pelicans’ star Anthony Davis. Should New York trade for him? Let’s discuss.
Should the New York Knicks Trade for Anthony Davis?
The summer of 2019 could be a dream come true for the New York Knicks.
The draft can be huge. Although their odds are tied with two other teams, they have the best odds at the number one overall pick, where Zion Williamson, a nearly perfect prospect and potential superstar, will be waiting.
Additionally, this summer’s free agency class is one of, if not the, best in recent memory. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and Kemba Walker (just to name a few) will hit the open market.
Several reporters/insiders suggest New York is the likely landing spot for Durant, as well as other previously mentioned names. The Knicks are guaranteed to have a top five draft pick and already possess over $70 million in cap space, the most in the league. The stage is set to bring playoffs back to Madison Square Garden.
One of the big names available, Anthony Davis, will also be widely available. Davis isn’t a free agent but he made it clear that he no longer wanted part of New Orleans and demanded a trade. It is unclear where he will go after seeing Kawahi Leonard land with the Toronto Raptors the last offseason, anything can happen. In addition to the Knicks, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics were reportedly interested in acquiring Davis.
With so many different ways the Knicks’ offseason can go, let’s look at which scenarios would be appropriate to make a trade for Davis. An important note before we begin: the Knicks draft Zion in every scenario. They won’t have a legitimate package without him. While he is not guaranteed to be a Knick, New York has the best odds to land him. So let’s pretend Williamson is drafted by New York this offseason.
Knicks Sign Durant and Irving
Durant has been linked to joining New York since the season started, and several insiders have echoed it throughout the season. It’s very likely that he joins the Knicks next year, but who’s going to join him? NBA reporters and former players have speculated that Durant and Irving would like to team up this summer for a while. New York is the only team with enough cap space to get it done (barring other teams making trades).
Durant and Irving joining the Knicks would be huge. Teaming them up with Davis would create an absurdly talented big 3. It would undoubtedly be a huge move. But, it is the right move?
Despite having only one year left on his contract, Davis would cost a lot. The Knicks would certainly have to give up Zion, and likely Mitchell Robinson, their most promising young player. It would leave the roster around the three stars quite thin. They would also forego the chance of being able to hit the ground running if Durant and Irving regress. Ideally, Williamson and the rest of the young players would step into bigger roles in the future.
Avoiding a Davis trade would allow New York to retain its depth and assets. Is there anyone better on the trade market than Davis? Not right now. But with Zion expected to be able to produce right away, is it really worth it trading him and assets for a possible rental? The answer is no.
Sign Durant and Butler/Walker
Irving isn’t linked as heavily to New York as Durant is. So, the Knicks will have to be ready to sign a different star. Butler and Walker could be those stars. Each of their current teams will certainly be eager to resign them, but they could still opt for teaming up with KD at MSG.
The problems with signing either Walker or Butler instead of Irving are that one, both are around 30 years old and two, neither are as good as Irving. While Durant is older than both, he is also clearly better than both. Having a younger star like Irving allows the window of success to stay open longer, as he and Durant’s regressions’ will stagger rather than synchronize.
Still, they should not pull the trigger on a trade for the 26-year-old Davis. Although Durant and Walker/Butler will decline at the same time, New York would have a budding superstar in Williamson to step up. Zion could very likely be as good as Davis, possibly even better. While it will likely take some time to get to Davis’ current level, Durant and the other star will still be playing at a high level.
Acquiring a proven superstar in Davis is great. Letting Williamson grow into a superstar and keeping assets is better. Trading for Davis could be huge, but with two stars on the wrong side of 30 when their contracts end, having a superstar for his entire career is the way to go.
Sign Just Durant
The 2018-19 Los Angeles Lakers provided a cautionary tale to the Knicks. LA found out the hard way that signing one of the best players in the game isn’t enough to make the playoffs. Banking on the young core developing backfired, as a once-promising core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma has tanked in trade value. They thought LeBron James would be enough… and they were wrong.
Although several young flowers have been planted at the Garden, the Knicks should strongly consider picking and swapping them for a big, beautiful bouquet. Yes, a young core with Williamson, Robinson, and others is promising, but what good are they if they can’t contribute to winning now? Signing Durant signals a desire to be good now, and acquiring a second star in Davis is the right way to go if no other stars besides Durant sign.
Durant and Davis would be a formidable duo that can do damage on both ends. Plus, they would still have around $30 million in cap space. They could use it to sign a supporting cast. Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, Patrick Beverley, Brook Lopez, Elfrid Payton, and Danny Green, are some quality role players that’ll be available.
Classic Knicks (no stars sign)
Yes, having Anthony Davis on your team makes it much more appealing for free agents. But, it could also set the Knicks back years if Davis leaves. He will almost certainly decline his player option for the 2020-21 season, making him a free agent. New York could end up giving up assets for a year of Anthony Davis.
The Knicks need to stay on the current course if they strike out in free agency. This means being patient and not searching for a quick fix. Trading for Davis with no other stars on the roster (or even high-quality players) is a horrible move. If the star free agents go elsewhere, New York needs to grit its teeth and continue to build around its young core.
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