Who would you trade for Anthony Davis?

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.



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7 responses to “Who would you trade for Anthony Davis?

  1. Eric in Madison

    The only relatively modern instance of a #1 pick getting traded was GSW trading the 3rd pick (Penny Hardaway) and 3 future #1s to Orlando for the first pick (Chris Webber). It would almost have to be something like that (though it would never actually happen). Let’s say the Wolves still had their pick, and actually got lucky in the lottery and got the 2nd pick. Would Charlotte, or whoever, do the 1st for the 2nd and Derrick Williams? I’ll answer my own question: they wouldn’t, no.

    I think you got it about right in terms of player-player swaps. Not sure that Memphis would do Gasol, but Portland would have to do Aldridge. OKC doesn’t do Westbrook, I don’t think.

    • Good point re: Webber for Penny. I didn’t think of that, but Webber was even one of the “special” top picks with a ton of hype (and for good reason). That was weird because it had shock value (WHY DID YOU JUST TRADE AWAY CHRIS WEBBER?!) then seemed pretty smart when they made the finals. And then Webber got his act together (albeit for his 2nd-then-3rd teams) and Penny had injuries. Webber had the better career, but it isn’t clear what the right move was.

      I agree with you on the Wolves hypothetical. D-Williams (so far) doesn’t have the look of a particularly-strong #2 Pick (not a bust by any means, though) and the non-Davis lottery seems like a crapshoot. Can you imagine the disappointment for Charlotte if they don’t win this lottery? I’m sure Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Thomas Robinson will become fine pros, but that franchise needs something more than that.

      I’m not entirely sure on Marc Gasol, but Memphis runs things on the cheap and they’re already leveraged with the Conley, Gay and Gasol deals. I bet they’d welcome the chance to restart the rookie scale clock with Davis.

  2. Jose Cordoba

    I would not trade Kevin Love for Derrick Rose. I would trade the rest of the Bulls Roster for the Wolves Roster. I’m feeling a Post on this subject coming up.

    • Jose-
      I disagree with both of those (assuming the latter means we send Love and don’t get Rose back) but it’s too complicated and hypothetical for me to post on (even if I just posted a completely hypothetical post about Ant Davis’ trade value.)
      Some (okay, most) consider Michael Jordan the greatest player of all time by a degree that makes counterarguments “nonsense.” When he retired in the middle of his prime, his team won only 2 less games than the championship season prior (57 versus 55). I like comparing team records with/without as much as anyone, but sometimes a quality team with depth withstands the loss of a great player better than a team like last year’s Wolves when Love went on the shelf and didn’t win.
      The Bulls, with Rose, are the Heat’s strongest competition to win the title. The Bulls, without Rose, would struggle to win a playoffs series (but could win one, too.)

      • Jose Cordoba

        Let Me ask you this

        1. Would you dispute the Bulls have the Best Front-Court in Basketball? I’m not just including starters but also the minutes played by back-ups. Where would the Wolves be surrounding Kevin Love with Above-Average Wings or a productive bench.

        2. Even at the wings the Bulls have very productive players in a three point shooter who makes threes (Korver) an actual elite defender in Ronnie Brewer. Even CJ Watson is an above average PG. I’m thinking your missing out on how huge a difference exists in giving minutes to productive players rather then Wes Johnson.

        • The Bulls probably have the deepest frontcourt and the best defensive frontcourt. Some other teams (Orlando, LA Lakers, Memphis, to name a few) have arguably better starting 4’s and 5’s than Boozer and Noah.

          It’s hard to compare a great point guard to a great power forward, but I’d rather have Rose. With him, you’re almost guaranteed to get a steady supply of good shots in every game, whether they be his own or his teammates’ off of his dribble penetration. Love is awesome too, and keeps getting better, but I’d rather have Rose.

  3. Jose Cordoba

    More Random Thoughts

    1. The Rubio vs Davis discussion is interesting. I probably would make that trade. Davis has so much upside as a Defender and blocking shots. You would have the potential to have possibly the greatest Front Court since a young Duncan/Robinson.

    2. You’re breakdown of trade options seems quite good. Imagine OKC with Harden/Durant/Davis. It doesn’t matter if Eric Maynor is your starting PG. This team would own it.