If you’re reading this blog then you are certainly aware of two things:
1) Kentucky is having a phenomenal season and will play in Saturday’s Final Four; and
2) Anthony Davis is ridiculously-good at basketball and is locked in as the top NBA Draft prospect.
With that in mind, and without interesting developments in the Wolves season (unless you think Kevin Garnett’s unappreciative and bitter side is interesting) to discuss, why not have a completely hypothetical and unnecessary exploration of Anthony Davis’ current trade value?
Let’s get one thing out of the way. Anthony Davis will not be traded. Number One Picks don’t get traded in any season, and the (un)likelihood of such a transaction only drops further when there’s a special, unanimous-type of top dog (or ‘Cat, as the case may be) in the draft class. Davis falls in that category. In case you haven’t seen this Kentucky team, some smart people think they’re so good that they are about to ruin college basketball. Other smart people have written that Anthony Davis has the chance to fundamentally alter our conception of NBA defense.
The easiest way to go about this is to deal with 1 player for 1 player swaps. It’s too complicated to include multiplayer deals. It’s also too complicated to factor in salary fillers, so we’ll just have to assume that whatever team drafts Davis will have some contracts to dump on the team that takes him on at the rookie scale. Finally, and also in the interest of making this easier for me, I’ll use Bill Simmons’ most-recent trade value column rankings, beginning at #1 LeBron James and work up from there.
Off we go…
#1 – LeBron James – No chance, even when if LeBron fails to come through in the playoffs, again. He’s a two-time MVP likely to win a third this year. He’s the most-relevant player in the NBA and almost certainly the best.
#2 /3 – Kevin Durant/Derrick Rose – Still no chance. Rose has an MVP and Durant might win one this year. Both are only 23 years old and lead teams that are on “perennial title contender” tracks. No reason to disrupt that, even for a talent like Davis. Plus, Noah and Ibaka are doing just fine as mobile rim protectors.
#4/5 – Kevin Love/Blake Griffin – We’re getting warmer (by that I mean they don’t hang up when “Would you trade us LeBr–” comes through the receiver) but still no chance. Love is now in the MVP conversation and while Blake is struggling with his jumper, he still is a massive producer of points and rebounds, the league’s best highlight creator and the only “face of the Clippers” in franchise history. The Clippers aren’t trading Blake. Nor should they. Neither team trades its franchise player for an incoming rookie.
#6 – Dwight Howard – Okay, I am going to break my rules here. Orlando would be crazy NOT to trade D12, but that’s only because of his contract situation (signed for one more year, and it looks increasingly like he’ll force a trade during next season or even this coming off-season) and not because he’s worth less than Davis in a trade. So Dwight doesn’t count.
#7/8 – Dwyane Wade/Chris Paul – Neither team trades for Davis, but in the case of these two it has more to do with the Heat and Clips trying to win now than it does the trade value of each player. Put simply, Anthony Davis has more value on a developing team than either Wade or CP does. On a contending team, vice versa. So we’re not there yet.
#9 – Kobe Bryant – Black Mamba doesn’t get traded for Davis for the same reason as Wade/Paul, but also because the Lakers will never trade Kobe unless he demands a trade. And even that may not be enough.
#10 – Dirk Nowitzki – Cuban won’t trade Dirk. Moving on…
#11 – Kyrie Irving – OK, now we’re really close. Even though Anthony Davis has the realistic potential to be significantly-more dominant than Kyrie, relative to peers at his position (there are a ton of point guards who are considered to be good-to-great; not the case for centers) I don’t think Cleveland does this trade. Their fans took a giant kick to the collective nuts when The Decision happened and Kyrie (with the help of good coaching and an underrated cast of veteran role players) has lifted Cleveland from the depths of NBA hell. Also, TRISTAN THOMPSON! has significant potential as a mobile big man who can do 75 percent of the things that Anthony Davis will be able to do in The League. Cleveland thinks long and hard about this one, but ultimately says no.
#12 – Russell Westbrook – Oh man, this one makes my head hurt. Russell is 23-years old and ALREADY has a 2nd Team All-NBA on his resume. He’s the point guard of the best team in the Western Conference and is now locked up for the next five seasons. Why would the Thunder trade him?! Well, because James Harden is also really, really good and probably meshes with Kevin Durant better as a primary offensive pair. And because the Thunder big men, mobile and disruptive as they are on defense, can’t shoot the ball for shit. Anthony Davis can shoot (and with his flawless technique might become a GREAT shooting big) and is or will be even better on defense than Serge Ibaka is. Oh, and there’s the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which includes more-punitive luxury tax provisions that are going to make it damn-near impossible (I think) for OKC to keep Westbrook-Harden-Durant-Ibaka for the long haul. Anthony Davis would be just starting on the bargain rookie scale, setting the clock back on all this trouble, if flipped for the newly-rich Russell. Let’s say Oklahoma City DOESN’T win this year’s championship. Would they flip Russ for Davis? I think it’s 50/50, leaning towards yes.
#13/14 – Marc Gasol/LaMarcus Aldridge – Since I hedged on Westbrook, I’ll add these two since they are definite “yes” answers. Memphis has shown an incredible ability to win without a star player (last year Gay; this year Z-Bo) so it would view flipping Gasol for Davis as an investment in the future that may not even hurt the present. Plus, Memphis wins with defense and this move plays to that strength. Portland would do this deal because they are rebuilding and it’s easier to rebuild with younger, cheaper players with more upside than their expensive veteran counterparts.
So in conclusion, Anthony Davis’ single-player trade value is somewhere around Russell Westbrook.
Oh, and just to be clear: No matter where Simmons has him ranked (23rd) I would not in a million years trade Ricky Rubio for Anthony Davis.