Two years ago, the Boston Celtics took a risk by trading for Kyrie Irving, knowing he could bolt in free agency this summer. Will they be wiling to take an even bigger risk with Anthony Davis, with the knowledge he’s likely to just stay one?
Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, has made every indication that the six-time All-Star would only stay in Boston for one year, and if he followed through on that promise, it could quickly turn the Celtics from one of the most promising teams in the league to one nearly devoid of talent.
According to the Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach, the Celtics are hesitant to make their best offer possible because of that uncertainty.
“It is widely known that the Celtics have the shiniest collection of assets for a potential Davis deal, but there are questions about how far they would open their treasure chest. One league source said the uncertainty surrounding Davis’s long-term future in Boston has thus far limited the Celtics’ willingness to overwhelm New Orleans with an offer.”
How much does this have to do with Kyrie Irving?
The elephant in the room for the Celtics’ offseason is what point guard Kyrie Irving will do in free agency. Irving asked out of Cleveland previously because he wanted to run his own team, and he landed on a talented one in Boston, but now that may not be enough.
Irving parted with his longtime agent on Wednesday to sign with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports, and that has led many to believe Irving will sign with the Brooklyn Nets, for whom Jay-Z used to be a minority owner. Even Celtics beat writer Steve Bulpett reported that Irving is “prepared to sign with the Brooklyn Nets.”
Irving has been a big recruiting tool for the Celtics in their pursuit of Davis. The two have been friends since their days on Team USA, and a team with both stars would be an immediate title contender. But a team with just Davis and no Irving would probably be about as competitive as the New Orleans Pelicans are now.
What would the Celtics look like without Kyrie and AD?
The Celtics certainly have a lot to offer the Pelicans if they want. They have three first-round draft picks this year and the Memphis Grizzlies’ top-six protected pick in 2020 (which becomes unprotected in 2021). And, of course, they have promising former top-three draft picks Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown plus guards Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier.
The Pelicans already passed on the Los Angeles Lakers’ offer of just about every young player on their roster, but they seem to be coming around on a three-team deal with the Lakers if it lands them better players. That still signals that they’re looking for more, potentially from the Celtics.
But let’s play out this scenario: If Irving leaves and the Celtics still trade for Davis, that will probably cost them Tatum, Brown and draft picks. If Davis bolts for LA after one season anyway, the Celtics will be left with Al Horford — who could also be leaving soon — the shell of what’s left of Gordon Hayward and a few role players.
A team without Irving that holds onto its trade assets won’t be the favorite in the East by any means, but Tatum, Brown, Horford and Hayward would still be formidable.
The Celtics can still dream big about creating a new super team, but without a long-term commitment from Irving or Davis, there may simply be too much risk.
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