Miami Shouldn’t Enter the Anthony Davis Sweepstakes
On Monday the event long expected by NBA fans finally came, Anthony Davis has requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. An MVP level player and generational talent, it goes without saying that all 29 teams in the NBA would love to have him on their roster. In reality, only a handful of teams have the necessary assets to interest the Pelicans, who have the final say over where Davis will go. Miami is one of those teams that could assemble a trade package worth the Pelicans’ time. The question is: should Miami enter the Anthony Davis sweepstakes?
The short answer? No.
The medium answer? To be competitive with other teams like the Celtics and Lakers, Miami would have to offer their young core of Richardson, Adebayo, and Winslow. While a trade centered around those three could work, it would significantly damage Miami’s long-term ability to put a title contending roster around Davis. Considering Davis is quoted saying he wants to go to a long-term title contender, he becomes a potential flight risk come the summer of 2020. Davis leaving for nothing and the Heat losing that young core would cripple the franchise. It’s not worth the risk.
The long answer? While a number of teams could field interesting trade packages for New Orleans, the frontrunners are most likely the Lakers and the Celtics. The Lakers can offer an interesting young core and picks for New Orleans, while also pairing Davis with LeBron James and the financial flexibility to get a third star to remain competitive long-term. The Celtics have been accruing assets for years waiting to splurge on an MVP level player like Davis. They could assemble a variety of packages that would all appeal to New Orleans without sacrificing any of their core players, ensuring a long-term competitive roster.
I say competitive a lot because that’s the crux of the problem Miami would have. In his trade request, Davis said he wanted to go to a team that consistently competes for titles. That’s the very reason he wants to leave the Pelicans, they’ve failed to put a good roster around him. While the Pelicans might not care about his preferences, the teams that are trading for him have to keep that in mind. Davis can turn down a player option in the summer of 2020 and become an unrestricted free agent, meaning if he doesn’t like what he sees then he can leave.
Due to an NBA rule, the Celtics, who can probably offer the best trade package, can’t trade for Davis until this summer. If the Heat want to try to trade for Davis, they’ll have to at least match the kind of trade package the Lakers could offer, which would be centered around a young core of Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo, and picks. Winslow and Richardson are good players on cheap long-term contracts while Adebayo is a promising young talent. But while Miami could probably get off a bad contract to match salary, Davis would be coming to a team with little financial flexibility, no All-NBA player to play with, and a hollowed out roster that was already having trouble competing in the East. Davis would become an immediate flight risk in the summer of 2020.
In theory, the Heat are the kind of organization that could still keep Davis in that kind of situation. Miami is a championship level organization with an elite head coach in Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley, who could sell Davis on a long-term plan to reshape the roster and be competitive. But using most of their assets to acquire Davis means the Heat wouldn’t have any left to trade for another All-NBA level player; and while the Heat could off a bad contract to New Orleans to match salary, they wouldn’t have the cap space to sign a marquee free agent this summer.
In 2020 the Heat would have some flexibility to acquire a free agent, it’ll be tough to sell them on coming to Miami when Davis could leave. According to rumors, Davis ultimately wants to end up on the Lakers, and it’ll be hard for the Heat to compete with them from a roster standpoint if they have their young core still and LeBron James. If Davis does leave it would be an absolute disaster for Miami, setting the franchise back years in ways very similar to what happened to the Brooklyn Nets. Ultimately, the risk is too high that Davis leaves in 2020 to warrant trading for him now.