Anthony Davis is a 24-year-old superstar with an incredible all-around skill set, a fairly team-friendly contract and the marketability of a franchise cornerstone.
So, why wouldn’t an asset-rich team like the Boston Celtics — who reportedly will add yet another first-round pick Monday in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers — call the New Orleans Pelicans and try to acquire one of the league’s top 10 players, as has been rumored?
Well, to acquire a player of Davis’ caliber, you almost certainly would need to mortgage your entire future. That likely means giving up several first-round picks — which probably would include at least this year’s No. 3 selection and the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first rounder — as well as multiple young players such as Jaylen Brown, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, etc.
If they acquired Davis, the Celtics would be all in. The window for winning a championship with a core of Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford and Davis would be right now. The problem is that core still isn’t good enough to beat the Golden State Warriors four times in a potential NBA Finals matchup.
The Warriors are loaded with wing players who can score at the rim, but their best ability is hurting you from the perimeter with elite shooters, particularly in pick-and-roll situations. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson fall into this category. Guarding any of those three players with Davis or Horford is not ideal.
The better move for the Celtics is to acquire a swingman who can defend these Warriors threats and other elite wings such as LeBron James. Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler, a two-way star on a team-friendly contract, is the ideal fit for the C’s. Indiana Pacers forward Paul George, who reportedly is being shopped, is another possibility for the Celtics if the price is low (George probably is a one-year rental). Free agent forward Gordon Hayward is another wing with excellent offensive talent, and he’s been linked to the Celtics in various rumors.
The current playing style of the league does not suit a team that has a power forward and a center as two of its best players. Teams must be able to shoot from 3-point range and defend the arc at an elite level to win, and acquiring Davis’ isn’t Boston’s best path to reaching that goal.
Let’s not forget this past season was the first in which Davis played more than 68 games. He’s never had a major injury, but several minor ailments have forced him to miss more than 12 games in all but one of his first four seasons.
The Celtics’ best plan is trading for Butler and signing Hayward. This would give the C’s two star wings in their prime who would be in Boston for multiple seasons. The Celtics, even if they pulled off those moves, still could have a couple extra first-round picks to use for long-term roster building. Remember, they are owed protected 2019 first rounders from the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers.
Davis is a phenomenal player. But is a center who can’t shoot from the outside and has a slightly questionable injury history worth giving up a kings’ ransom to acquire, when a team like Golden State is ready to dominate the league for the next three, four or five seasons?
The answer is no.
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