Anthony Davis has requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. While he won’t end up there, any trade will have an impact on the Minnesota Timberwolves.
After months, even years, of speculation, the seemingly inevitable has finally happened: Anthony Davis has asked out of New Orleans. As one of the league’s greatest talents, a Davis trade to any team involving any player will have an impact on more than just the teams and players involved. While the Minnesota Timberwolves have almost no shot at acquiring Davis, his dealing will still have an impact on the organization in two ways.
Davis’s Final Destination and the Pelicans’ Bleak(er) Outlook
In the short-term, the biggest impact this will have on the Timberwolves is taking New Orleans out of the playoff hunt while also potentially fortifying a fellow Western Conference contender. Minnesota is four games out of the eighth seed themselves, with New Orleans two games behind them. In all likelihood, neither of these teams make the playoffs this season. Davis being traded before next Thursday’s trade deadline would all-but-guarantee a freefall for the Pelicans.
How the Pelicans look after a Davis trade depends on the return, obviously, so it doesn’t make much sense to speculate on their future outlook at this current time. But at the very least, it seems fair to imagine New Orleans moving closer to the 15th seed in the conference than the eighth. Losing a top-five NBA player hurts. Unless they are able to get a star in return or the right mix of blossoming players and draft picks, this is probably a multi-year re-build for the Pelicans. But, again, this is purely speculation on assumed trade packages/proposals. As we saw with the Kawhi Leonard trade last offseason, an unlikely suitor with more of a win-now offer could grab the Pelicans’ ear.
The most-discussed Western Conference suitor is the Los Angeles Lakers, who are reportedly already preparing a package to pitch to New Orleans. The current Lakers, playing without LeBron James and Lonzo Ball, are within reach of Minnesota; they have just two games of separation in the standings. A Lakers team headlined by (then healthy) LeBron and Davis would look a lot different. For Los Angeles to entice New Orleans, it will take a hefty offer that includes most, if not all, of their young talents. Even then, they may fall short. It all depends on how strongly the Pelicans brass values LA’s young players.
Hypothetically, though, let’s say this deal happens. Instead of the Lakers trotting out LeBron and the young cats, their rotation goes from “young and feisty” to “old and wily.” This isn’t a bad thing; Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Tyson Chandler should be enough of a supporting cast for a Big 2 of James and Davis to comfortably make the playoffs.
This, of course, makes it that much tougher for the Timberwolves to sneak in. As the season goes on, it’s getting harder and harder to imagine San Antonio, Utah, or the Clippers crashing and burning in the way Minnesota needs to grab a hold of that eighth seed. Los Angeles adding a reinforcement of Davis’s strength would all but seal Minnesota’s fate.
Davis is a player worth taking a shot on, whether a team has a good chance of retaining him or not. For this reason, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Phoenix, Portland, Denver, Sacramento, or really, anyone else, at least giving the Pelicans a call. In other words, the Timberwolves won’t benefit from a Davis trade unless he goes East. If that does happen, the Timberwolves have one less Western Conference behemoth to worry about.
The Blueprint for Karl-Anthony Towns
Seeing as though Karl-Anthony Towns hasn’t even graduated from his rookie-scale contract to his super-max extension yet, this may seem premature. But in a league where star players take control of their future more and more every year, staying on top of things seems smart for any organization in the league. Minnesota could eventually be in New Orleans’s shoes with Towns.
This may have been erased from your mind already, but it wasn’t too long ago that Towns expressed frustration with the organization — internally, of course, only to be leaked. Towns never went so far as to request a trade, but conversations were being had, which shouldn’t be forgotten.
The relationship seems mended — Minnesota resolved its Jimmy Butler problem by trading him, and while Towns may not have had a problem with former head coach Tom Thibodeau, moving on from him was probably the smart long-term decision.
Minnesota will have Towns locked in for five more years after this season, which gives them time to build around him and keep him happy. And they better do so, because by the summer of 2023, Towns may be sick of losing with a small market team in a blisteringly-cold city. In today’s game, it’s the safest bet to assume a player of Towns’ stature will eventually want to flex his star power in a bigger city for a more storied organization.
Again, this is a premature conversation, but it is worth mentioning at a time like this. After all, Minnesota and its fans are all-too-familiar with trading star big men and making sure to not repeat history should be the No. 1 goal.