Toronto Raptors should make a call for Anthony Davis

New Orleans Pelicans - Anthony Davis (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)
New Orleans Pelicans - Anthony Davis (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The league is on the watch for Anthony Davis to be on the move. His presence makes any team better, which is why the Toronto Raptors must be in on conversations to acquire the five-time All-Star.

The Toronto Raptors are no different from the rest of the league; they would love to acquire New Orleans Pelicans star forward, Anthony Davis. Currently, he is primarily linked to the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, but it is possible that the Raptors surprise with an overwhelming package.

The Raptors are committed to winning this season after making the big trade for Kawhi Leonard over the summer. With their sights set on this being a championship season, acquiring Davis would be a giant step in the right direction to make that goal a reality.

Davis is averaging over 13 rebounds per game this season. He is also having a career season with over 28 points and 4 assists per game. If the Raptors were looking an upgrade center, it would not just mean increased production, but also improved defense. Davis is an elite defender and rim protector. There is no doubt that Nick Nurse would love to have him in the huddle and starting every game.

The price to lure AD away from New Orleans would be steep. Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster would need to prioritize adding Davis over rolling with the current roster. This would mean losing important pieces not only for now but for the future.

If management believes that this player will bring the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy, then they may be willing to mortgage the future. That is exactly, what it would take.

With LeBron James, who shares the same agent as Davis, openly courting him to join the Lakers and the Celtics, who have the best assets to acquire him, also interested, competition is steep. It will come down to what Pelicans owners, the Benson Family and General Manager Dell Demps want to do. That includes the option of keeping AD in New Orleans to play out his contract.

Davis is an unrestricted free agent in 2020 or eligible for a “super-max” deal this summer if he elects to stay in New Orleans. The Pelicans can offer him a five-year $235 million contract. A deal with another team, would cost Davis $80 million.

If the Pelicans believe that Davis would sign an extension there is very little chance that he gets moved at all. However, if AD tells management that he will not sign a max tenure, as rumored,  they may set their sights on finding the best possible package.

The important question is, what might the Pelicans want in order to part with their superstar? The Raptors are not as deep in picks or young players as the Celtics, which means that they would need to pull players out of their starting lineup to send to New Orleans.

This would be a massive deal for both teams, but with the frontrunners of the Celtics and Lakers, is it good enough?

Boston is at a disadvantage during the season. They cannot trade for Davis until the summer without including Kyrie Irving (very unlikely). This is because “the Rose Rule” restricts it. This applies to a player whose followup contract to their rookie one makes them eligible to earn 30% of a team’s salary cap instead of 25%. A team may only have one of these players on their roster. The Celtics. Irving already qualifies in this category, meaning that they would need to wait until the offseason to make a move for Davis.

The Lakers are able to make a midseason trade for him. Any deal would likely include at least three of four of their prime young prospects: Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart. These options are compelling, which is why the Raptors would need to wow the Pelicans and give up a lot to get their guy.

Let’s unpack the potential Raptors-Pelican trade. Obviously, the primary acquisition is Davis. Darius Miller accompanies him in order to help replace some of the depleted Raptors roster.

It not only makes the money work but at 28 years old, Miller is a serviceable bench player who has shown himself to be an excellent defender. He will not put up big numbers, but Nurse will always have confidence in giving him minutes to work. Miller is on an expiring contract and may not return to New Orleans next season anyway, which is why Demps may be willing to include him in this transaction.

The Pelicans would receive a package that helps brighten their future. Pascal Siakam would be the player that they are most excited to be getting. With his play steadily improving, he could be an all-star for years to come.

The ceiling is high for OG Anunoby as well. Though he has shown some regression this season, he has all the tools and fearless attitude to become a star himself. After witnessing him guard LeBron James in the 2018 playoffs, teams are well aware of his assets and capabilities.

Valanciunas figures into the mix for a few reasons. He would become redundant if he were to remain in Toronto with Davis. He also provides the necessary matching salaries. The Pelicans would want a big man to bang and crash after losing their biggest weapon. Also, his salary would be an issue on the Raptors who are already in the luxury tax.

Money is also why C.J. Miles would be included in this monster trade. Having underperformed this season, the Raptors would be happy to get out from his $8.33 million for the remainder of this season and $8.73 million next year.

The Pelicans would be gambling that Miles regains his form and returns to being the dangerous perimeter shooter the Raptors wish they had. Then there are also the two first round draft picks. Due to the Ted Stepien Rule, since the San Antonio Spurs own the Raptors’ 2019 first-round selection, the earliest first-round pick that Toronto could trade away is 2021. Finally, for good measure, Toronto would add a 2022 second-round pick. With Davis still having term left on his deal, the package needs to be impressive. The Pelicans could use the picks and young players to kick-start a needed rebuild in New Orleans.

A move like this would be a big gamble for the Raptors. They would be forced to replace players to fill roster holes this season and they would have fewer picks that they could use as a commodity to entice teams to deal with them. However, with the omnipresent worry that Leonard becomes a free agent when the season ends, the franchise showing a commitment to winning may be enough to convince him to stay. For some, that may be reason alone to pull the trigger on a deal of this magnitude. Keeping their star happy just might equate to keeping him in Toronto.

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A trade this significant would get the whole league talking. If the Raptors are ready to push all-in on the season, they better be sure that it will make them winners. Though a deal for Davis is unlikely this season, it nice to imagine Leonard, Davis, and Lowry tormenting opponents together.