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Kyrie Irving-Anthony Davis 2020

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The Celtics can’t trade for Anthony Davis this season with Kyrie Irving on the roster, but could AD come to Boston as a free agent in 2020?

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New Orleans Pelicans v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Before lthe Celtics’ 113-100 victory over the Pelicans last night, I jokingly tweeted out that it was Anthony Davis vs. the Anthony Davis trade package with Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford all nursing injuries. Until Davis signs a super max extension with New Orleans or is traded before July, it’s a narrative that won’t die especially on the one day a year that Davis plays in Boston. The Garden crowd cheered him when he was introduced. Irving is already in green and has verbally committed to re-signing and The Athletic’s Jay King reported earlier in the year that old friends Kyrie and AD have talked about teaming up in Boston.

Of course, AD won’t come free. A trade for Davis would include some combination of Boston’s young core that was showcased last night: Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Robert Williams, Semi Ojeleye and the bevy of draft picks that the Celtics are in line for next summer. Davis finished the night with 41 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists and for what it’s worth, the trio of Brown-Tatum-Rozier combined for 50-20-10.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

As tantalizing as getting one of the tranformational talents of this generation is, there are things to consider. Depth is one of Boston’s biggest strengths. With the league speeding up in pace and teams looking to limit their star players’ wear-and-tear over the regular season, franchises are looking to build nine- to ten-man rotations to weather the 82-game schedule. A deal for Davis would surely gut the Celtics’ reserves. Considering that they could lose Rozier and Marcus Morris to free agency, spending the young capital to get Davis could pry the championship a little wider in the short run, but shorten it in the long term.

But it may be easier to pry Davis out of the Big Easy than we think. Consider what the market bore out in recent franchise player trades. Jimmy Butler was had for a 3&D role player in Robert Covington and third-year pro Dario Saric, a third or fourth option on a good team. At the time, Paul George got dealt for an underperforming Victor Oladipo and the 11th pick in the 2016 Draft, Domantas Sabonis. Kawhi Leonard was in effect swapped out for DeMar DeRozan, hardly a fair one-for-one trade.

Davis is younger and could arguably have a larger impact than any of those players though. There’s a thought that because GM Dell Demps knows what Danny Ainge has in his cupboards, he’ll shoot for the moon and force Celtics management to negotiate against themselves. There’s no point now in speculating what a trade could look like this season with the Rose Rule in play this year. However, with the team playing so well and the fans finally getting a look at what this team could be like when it’s running on all cylinders, the idea of giving up so much for Davis does force a moment of pause.

A Godfather offer changes the dynamic of the Celtics. It turns them into a super team and a formidable one at that. You could plug-and-play any combination of wings around Irving and AD and own the East for the entire span of their next contracts. But what you lose is what we’ve seen over the last few weeks. Boston comes at you in waves and you don’t know who is going to be the one that eventual obliterates your sand castle. I love that original Big Three as much as the next fan, but this Spursian machine that Ainge and Stevens have built could last a long time.

Ultimately, this really comes down to Davis and where he wants to play the prime of his career. If he wants to be a Celtic, he could wait until his own free agency in 2020 (whether he’s traded or not) when Boston could conceivably have the cap space to sign him outright. Having to put together a package a year earlier could be moot. If that’s the case, we’ll do this dance again when Davis comes to town and the same flirtations of whispered “what if’s” will be drowned out by the ironic cheers that will shower down from the Garden crowd. After the game, he was asked about the adoration he gets from Boston fans and AD echoed the same sentiment he’s repeated over and over again, “I heard it tonight but I’m focused on this team.” To my memory, that’s the first time he’s ever acknowledged the awkwardness of the moment.

Oh, and this happened: