Seasons of progress built around Davis were seemingly reversed overnight, as it became clear he would not re-sign in New Orleans past the season and a half he has left on his contract. General Manager Dell Demps was tempted with trade offers from the Lakers, reportedly being offered Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Rajan Rondo, and first round picks. He stood firm, demanding more and refusing to make a trade in a hasty fashion.
It’s now apparent this wasn’t Demp’s trade to make. The Pelicans season hit rock bottom on Valentine’s Day and the following morning. Davis injured his shoulder in a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, and left the arena early. The sequence of events allegedly had ownership “livid.” Just 12 hours later, around noon Eastern Time, news broke that the Pelicans and Demps would be parting ways effective immediately. Demps had been in the position with the team since 2010.
For the remainder of the 2018-19 NBA season, the Pelicans will seek an internal employee to assume the role of interim general manager. New Orleans is 26-33, 13th in the Western Conference. They are only 6.0 games out of the 8th seed, but contention this year became a pipedream even before Davis requested a trade.
In the offseason, the Pelicans are slated to be “aggressive” in their pursuit of a highly talented basketball mind.
The next general manager will be faced with trade options as early as the 2019 NBA Draft, if not on July 1 when the new league year officially begins. Davis’s trade demand becomes a more pressing issue as he enters the final year of his contract. If he’s leaving, the Pelicans need to maximize their return. If they had even accepted the Lakers offer this year, they could have added three young starter-level players and four draft picks: seven players for one or two. While none may be as talented as Davis, the sum of having a deep roster could be beneficial to the Pelicans, who already have a couple other solid pieces.
The Lakers, Celtics, and Knicks, all originally rumored destinations, remain potential landing spots for Davis. Jayson Tatum has been discussed as a key trade chip for Boston, while New York may need to land the first overall pick to grab the Pelicans attention. Other teams could enter the mix if they believe Davis will sign long-term OR adding him for one year will net them a championship.
General managers generally have longer tenures than coaches, so the next one for the Pelicans could decide the franchise’s next decade with how he handles this trade.
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