A Bird in the Hand: Klutch City Edition

Right now, as the trade deadline approaches this week, the NBA community has been inundated with an unusually high amount of rumors and leaks for what was thought, as little as 2 weeks ago, to be a very inactive trade deadline.

So what changed?

Anthony Davis’ trade request. Well, rather, Klutch Sports informing the New Orleans Pelicans that AD has no intention of signing an extension this summer, and fully expects to leave in free agency in 2020 (if not traded away sooner).

This is a familiar trope with superstar players in the NBA that on surface appears to be good-natured: Superstar Player X announces intent to leave team early enough for said-team to trade Superstar Player X for valuable assets.

The truth? Superstar Player X wants to navigate his way to his preferred team early, so that new team can offered him a 5-year max contract only offered by incumbent teams, as opposed to the 4-year contract every other team is limited to. Basically a “have your cake and eat it too’ scenario, which is fine and well within the rules.

Anthony Davis’ situation is a bit more complex, given that this past summer he changed agencies, and signed with Klutch Sports, run by LeBron’s best friend Rich Paul (and which is also rumored to be co-owned by LeBron himself).

Why is that interesting?

Because it is in the best interest of Klutch Sport’s to have their Number 1 client to continue to build on his already historical resume, and hopefully win another championship or two before he hangs up his sneakers for good. LeBron James is almost a corporation all by himself. From sneakers, to movies, and philanthropic work to the representation of professional athletes, LeBron is the first NBA superstar to truly build his brand from the ground-up, all while simultaneously playing pro ball. His greatest cannot be denied, and you would hard-pressed to find his name outside the top 3 of all-time NBA greats.

What could help that ranking? Perhaps matching, or even surpassing Michael Jordan’s 6 championships. How could he accomplish that at his advanced age (in basketball years, at least?) How about teaming up with arguably the best player in the league Anthony Davis?

Well, to make that happen, since Davis is under contract until summer 2020, is to trade with the Pelicans. So, they better hope they have the best trade package on the market then, as New Orleans needs to receive the best possible haul for generational talent.

Boston has been stockpiling assets since Garnett and Pierce were shipped to Brooklyn, and have deftly navigated through recent drafts to acquire an extremely talented and deep pool of young prospects, as well as 1st round picks.

However, because Boston currently has Kyrie Irving on the roster, who was signed to his current deal under the designated Rose-Rule, they are unable to trade for Davis (also a Rose-Rule contract) until Kyrie opts of his deal this summer, in order to resign with Boston long term (a team cannot have more than 1 player on their team with a Rose-Rule designation).

Boston can blow any Lakers trade offer out of the water once summer starts. Not only do they have tantalizing good, young, proven players like Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier, they have 1st round draft picks from the Grizzlies, Clippers, Kings as well as their own.

And the icing on the cake?

Jayson Tatum, if need be.

But again, Boston cannot swing a deal for Davis, even with all of these valuable pieces, until Kyrie opts out July 1st. That could spell doom for LeBron James and Klutch Sports.

So what can they do? They can try to manipulate the market for Davis, and force New Orleans hand.

  • First, the story comes out about Kyrie and LeBron burying the hatchet.
  • Then we hear that Kyrie and Anthony Davis became very close at Team USA, and would maybe like to play with each other (in Boston?).
  • Then we hear that Davis would like to end up in Los Angeles with LeBron.
  • Then we hear that Kyrie is not a guarantee to re-sign with Boston (even though he stated so before the season.
  • Then we hear that Davis wouldn’t be interested in Boston if Kyrie wasn’t there.
  • Then we hear rumors that maybe Kyrie is open to joining LeBron and Davis in L.A.
  • Then we hear that Anthony Davis has in no interest in Boston, and wouldn’t re-sign there.

Now we get the report that there are multiple teams AD would re-sign with, but Boston is not one of them. (On top of the Lakers, we get the Clippers, Bucks, and Knicks. The last three, which ironically, do not have nearly the assets Boston does. Klutch is creating a fake marketplace.)

The thing to keep in mind with these rumors: they come from Davis’ camp. And when we say “Davis’ Camp” you have to remember that it also means “LeBron’s Camp”. If Klutch can manipulate the news cycle to make New Orleans believe that Boston will not make a competitive offer this summer for Davis because he would not re-sign with the Celtics, then they have won.

In the end, the Pelicans need to do what is best, long term, for their franchise. Klutch (and LeBron) are trying their hardest to deter New Orleans from accomplishing that goal by scaring them into trading Anthony Davis to the Lakers. Boston has been building towards an AD offer for years. To think, but 3 p.m. on Thursday, we may get a clearer picture of what the NBA will look like for the next half-decade.