Anthony Davis’s trade request was the best thing that could have happened.

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Published: May 19, 2019

A rejection forced change, plus some dumb luck.

      In late January, Anthony Davis sent a shockwave around the NBA and the Pelicans franchise when he publicly – not- so publicly rejected the Pelicans and requested a trade, with the intention of joining Lebron James on the Los Angeles Lakers. Of course, no trade was made and the Lakers are dealing with their own issues internally, but this is about the ramifications this set of events had on the Pelicans. Without this very public display of despondency about the state of the Pelicans franchise from Davis, the Pelicans would have probably continued to operate under their same  status quo until the summer.

 

         In an alternate timeline the season continues on, the Pelicans try to make up ground in the playoff race, trade away an asset or two for mid season help – most likely the first round draft pick. They would end with a better record, nothing spectacular, and nearly no chance at a decent draft pick. They would have continued to put temporary bandages on an open sore and it would have continued to bleed. Summer would have inevitably come and the Pelicans would have offered Davis the opportunity to sign the super-max extension, which he would have assuredly rejected. Nikola Mirotic would have left in free agency, with nothing to show. Dell Demps would have been fired right after and the franchise would have continued on in relatively the same fashion, hiring someone unproven to take over the helm of the franchise. The hire would not have had total autonomy, operating with mandates that hamstring the building process. Trading Jrue Holiday would have to be explored. All of this without a draft pick to boot.

 

        Instead, by virtue of this very public trade request, the aftermath was the Pelicans were finally forced to look at themselves in the mirror. They did not like what they saw, change must come. As fans we defend our teams as much as we can from outside perception, however unfair it is or whatever seemingly wrong narrative is flying around. The problem was after the Davis trade request there were things that legitimately could not be defended anymore. Why was Mickey Loomis still involved with them in any capacity? What business did he have there? The injuries, by whatever dumb luck injuries normally happen had just piled up too much over Anthony Davis’ 7 year tenure. Something was off.

 

Change

         Shortly after the trade deadline, the Pelicans fired Dell Demps. This move didn’t make a ton of sense at the time it happened, why not wait until after the season? The reasoning for this showed shortly after, being the first team to comb the executive market allowed them to get a big time executive, and boy did they get one. From all accounts it was widely expected that Danny Ferry, the then interim GM would just assume full time duties. The fear many had with Ferry was that it would have just seemed lazy, that due diligence wasn’t done and the Pelicans would continue on the same path, basically the same old Pelicans. Perception matters, especially in the NBA’s smallest market. In lieu – a Woj bomb comes and Ferry has withdrawn from GM consideration. A few minutes later, another one, The Pelicans have landed David Griffin to take over basketball operations. Relief.

         The hiring of Griffin meant Gayle Benson was all in, there would be no more shortcuts, the investment would be real and tangible. Griffin immediately began shifting perceptions and obliterating concerns this fan base has long languished. From the jump he began quelling the tumultuous past. He hired Aaron Nelson, largely regarded as the best trainer in the NBA away from the Sun’s. Which, for a team with such an injury riddled past this was seen as a coup around the league. He hired Trajan Langdon to be the General Manager, someone most people would have been excited to let run the show. Griffin operates with the demeanor of an eternal optimist, believing relationships are the most important factor in this business, and if you are open and honest with others you may be rewarded – and the Pelicans were.

 

Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good.

         The Pelicans entered the may 14th lottery with only a 6% chance at the 1st overall pick, along with a myriad of lottery teams putting their hope in a chance at the Phenom Duke Freshman – Zion Williamson. Yet, the Pelicans name was the one called as Griffin said he believed it would. Much to the chagrin of the large market teams believing they were owed this pick, the Pelicans walked away with the quickest way to jump start a Franchise, the opportunity to draft an elite talent in Zion Williamson.

 

Up next

          Since the trade deadline the decision to completely upheave what was there and replace it with a stronger foundation has brought nothing but great things, however lucky some of it is. In a weird and twisted turn of events since the Anthony Davis trade request –  the Pelicans are now armed with the number 1 draft pick, a versatile two way guard in Jrue Holiday, an ownership group that is fully invested and actually cares, a savvy head of Basketball Operations in David Griffin, a smart up and coming executive in Trajan Langdon. The entire infrastructure of the Pelicans is shifting in a positive direction. The Anthony Davis question still remains and the Pelicans will either have Anthony Davis or, the next best thing, the ability to trade Anthony Davis. David Griffin still plans to meet with Anthony Davis and to try to convince him that this just isn’t the same old franchise, it’s something new and you should want to be apart of it. Why shouldn’t Davis now at least consider this? This franchise no longer operates under the same M.O. they are pouring all available resources into whatever Griffin or Alvin Gentry need. Why not come play with Jrue Holiday and Zion Williamson? Talent wins and the deck is stacked in New Orleans favor. This should also be Griffin’s primary initiative, to try convince the young superstar in Davis to stay. Fans might not like this, with good reason, feeling Davis turned his back on the city and team, but fans are fickle and Griffin has already set things in motion to repair the image and the hurt left behind – should he decide to return. A few wins, electrifying dunks, bonding with Zion, instagram posts, would turn the tides back in his favor. Griffin also knows that in superstar trades it’s lucky to even get 75 cents on the Dollar. The return for Davis may have some interesting young pieces, but not one will be a known commodity, it will be putting faith into the notion of potential – which may never be reached. He is just trying to keep already realized potential, and he should, he was not here for any of the bad blood. None of what happened during the season had anything to do with him.

         The point of all of this is none of this would have happened, and wouldn’t have been possible without that request from Davis at the time it happened, even if his only ambition was to get to the Lakers. It helped this franchise to move forward and reflect and make necessary changes. There would be no Griffin, no Zion, no Langdon, no Nelson, probably not even a draft pick. The Pelicans would be reaching with their best attempt at getting a star in return for Davis, instead of focusing on the ability to gain assets and complimentary pieces, but more on that later.  When you do things right, things often bounce in your favor. In a weird way we should be thanking Anthony Davis despite the lack of tact displayed during the deadline situation. This franchise needed something to force themselves to take a step back and evaluate. The request was needed. As Gayle Benson said “For whatever reason, we have not created a culture that fosters a consistently winning franchise. The way we have been operating has not worked, and we have not adapted to the realities of today’s NBA.” Maybe the Pelicans needed to crash eventually, but now, hopefully they fly.

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