After seeing the success with one-year rentals that the OKC Thunder and Toronto Raptors have experienced, should the Utah Jazz take a stab at Anthony Davis this summer?
Paul George and Kawhi Leonard have created fascinating situations in the NBA. Both found themselves disgruntled with the situation on their current team (the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs, respectively), and each let their team know they didn’t intend to re-sign a year before they hit free agency.
In many ways, this was a big bummer for both fanbases. Pacers fans had come to love Paul George who had led them to the greatest heights they’d seen since the Malice at the Palace days. The Spurs had won a championship with Kawhi Leonard. It was grueling to see either one decide they no longer wanted to remain with a fanbase and organization to which they’d brought so much success.
However, at a bare minimum, their letting the incumbent team know their intentions was a great thing to do because it let the organizations pivot, find a way to capitalize by trading the discontent star and get something back for them instead of losing them for nothing. Just imagine if the Utah Jazz had received some sort of heads up from Gordon Hayward, who instead simply flew the coop in free agency leaving the Jazz high and dry. Looking through that lens makes what PG and Kawhi did look quite respectable.
But wanting off of a team is nothing new. It’s the results that have followed in both their cases that’s unique. Both players were traded to markets that are typically viewed as less than appealing – George went to Oklahoma City while Leonard went to Toronto. Each team gave up solid assets to get the superstar – the Thunder sent away budding young star Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis while the Raptors traded away All-Star DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl.
Each trade was viewed as quite risky at the time, considering that both George and Leonard had only one year remaining on their contracts. Giving up valuable pieces for a potential one-year rental? That’s not always the best way to operate for long-term success. Such was especially true in the case of George, who many thought for certain would be heading for Los Angeles at the first chance he had.
Instead, the Thunder defied the odds and – while they haven’t yet earned the success they hoped George would bring – kept the superstar in free agency, even getting him to re-sign with a multi-year contract. That ability to surround him with a winning culture and a great environment were enough to get him to stay put, making their risk very much worth it.
Time will tell if the same will be true for the Raptors and Kawhi Leonard, who has yet to show any indication where he may sign next season. However, the fact that he’s already led his Toronto squad to within one game of an NBA Championship is proof enough that trading for him, even if it does end up being a one-year rental, was absolutely worth it as well.
Yet again this summer, there’s a superstar player who wants off his current team. It’s become such a distraction that there appears to be no way for his incumbent team to hold on to him, and they’ll almost certainly trade him to bring in assets rather than let him walk for nothing. The player I’m speaking of, of course, is New Orleans Pelicans big man extraordinaire Anthony Davis.
Despite Davis’ incredible basketball prowess, he’s only advanced to the NBA Playoffs twice in his NBA career. On both occasions, despite advancing to the second round in the latter, the Pels were easily dispatched by the Golden State Warriors.
Due to the lack of success and a perceived absence of help around him, Davis is clearly looking for greener pastures. When the same was the case for George and Leonard, the Thunder and Raptors both stood up and stuck their necks out, deciding to swing for the fences, go for a shot at a championship and trade away valuable assets for a potential one-year rental.
Should the Utah Jazz be the next overlooked small market team to step up and attempt to do the same? Should the Jazz be this year’s Thunder/Raptors that go all in to add a superstar such as Davis?
It would likely be difficult to pull off considering that it’s hard to see the Jazz being able to put together the best offer unless they added Rudy Gobert into the deal (which, I guess you could argue would be the way they get this done and make a splash, but I don’t know that a Donovan Mitchell – Anthony Davis team sans Gobert gets you as close to a championship as the Jazz would hope).
However, there are packages the Jazz could assemble that could potentially do the trick. Guys like Joe Ingles, Jae Crowder, Derrick Favors, Royce O’Neale and even Dante Exum and Grayson Allen have some value. Throw in what would likely have to be multiple picks, and there’s a chance the Jazz could get a pretty attractive offer together. Especially considering that there’s a risk associated with Davis only having one year left on his contract, teams may be able to get him for significantly less than they would if he still had multiple years remaining.
That said, could the Jazz beat out teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics in a bidding war? Probably not, unless the Pelicans were really honed in a particularly player/players the Jazz were offering. But for the sake of this argument, let’s say the Jazz are able to get the right package together for Davis and New Orleans wanted to move forward with it. Would they be wise to pull the trigger?
After seeing what the Raptors have been able to do, going from a consistent under-performer in the playoffs to one game shy of a championship, I’m tempted to say it would be. The excitement and thrill that has engulfed Toronto would be exhilarating to witness in Salt Lake City. And if Davis could bring that, I’d say it could very well be worth the risk.
However, there’s also a few problems. First off, I don’t think the Jazz could get him without including Rudy Gobert in the deal. And while Davis is probably the better player in a vacuum, the only way the Jazz become a championship contender with Davis is if they still have a Big 3 with Gobert and Mitchell included. Despite Davis’ claims of needing more help, he’s had an absolute stud in Jrue Holiday on his team. Could he really get much further (if at all) paired merely with Mitchell and the remaining Jazz role players?
If the Jazz were able to put a package together including guys I mentioned previously like Ingles, Exum, Allen, O’Neale, etc. in a combination that allured the Pelicans, then we may have more of an argument. Sure, losing depth would hurt and the Jazz would really need more shooting if they were going to part with Ingles and O’Neale, but this is at least a risk that could pay off.
A Big 3 of Mitchell, Davis and Gobert would be frightening to behold, especially with Quin Snyder at the helm, and it could very well elevate the Jazz into the championship conversation.
Unfortunately, as tempting as it would be to hope to capitalize on a likely one-year window with Davis, I still don’t think it’s worth the risk. If you’ve been following me lately on The J-Notes, you know I’ve been pretty vocal about the Jazz needing to abandon their typical conservative nature and go out on a limb this summer. I still stand by that, but have also been clear that they need to take calculated risks. Sadly, I don’t think that going all out for AD would quite fall in that bucket as the best idea.
First off and simply put, he’s not as good as Kawhi Leonard. When the Raptors went all out for him, they added a top-3 (perhaps higher) player in the NBA to their ranks. Davis is easily top-10, maybe even top-5 (depending who you ask, though I wouldn’t say so), but there’s still a large gap there. In other words, playing in the East and adding Leonard gave Toronto a much more realistic shot at a Finals appearance to begin with than the Jazz would have adding Davis to their squad.
Davis also has a checkered injury history which would make him risky to sign in the first place. Just imagine if the Jazz sold the farm for him, only for history to repeat itself and he became unable to suit up for their biggest of moments.
Not only that but, while I get going for a one-year shot at a championship, I don’t think Davis would quite get the Jazz there anyway. Then, from there, I’m even less confident that the Jazz would have any shot at re-signing him next year. Yes, the Jazz can provide him an awesome basketball situation, but if Davis is tired of New Orleans, then I doubt Salt Lake City will really float his boat.
Maybe Utah could shock the world as OKC did with Paul George, but I really wouldn’t count on it. In other words, since adding Davis wouldn’t give Utah as clear a path to the Finals as adding Kawhi to the Raptors did for Toronto and since he’s unlikely to re-sign, which would leave the Jazz having traded away multiple valuable assets and hampering them down the road, I would advise against them throwing their hat in the ring for Anthony Davis.
Once again, I’m all for taking risks, and Utah’s chances at hoisting the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy would definitely go up if they had Anthony Davis on their roster. However, not only would it be tough for the Jazz to put together a sensible package for him that would convince the Pelicans to deal, but AD is injury prone, unlikely to re-sign, and probably wouldn’t quite get them a championship during the final year of his contract if we’re being honest with ourselves.
The Utah Jazz need to strike this summer and take a calculated risk to improve their roster which has continually fallen short. But, as appealing as it may seem based on recent success stories in OKC and Toronto, going all in for Anthony Davis likely isn’t the best route to pursue.