The Lakers are off to a slow start to the season and trade rumors have started circling around Anthony Davis. Given the New York Knicks’ tendency to be linked to every big-name player in the NBA, there have been some rumors swirling about what it might take for New York to acquire Davis.
One such hypothetical was posted on Bleacher Report on Tuesday, proposing a Knicks and Lakers deal that was as follows:
Los Angeles Lakers receive RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Obi Toppin, Quentin Grimes, five first-round picks from New York Knicks for Anthony Davis.
Despite how much LeBron James would love this trade, we felt compelled to explain why this deal, or really any deal for Davis, simply wouldn’t work for New York.
For starters, the Knicks are not going to send five first-round picks to the Lakers for Anthony Davis.
The Cavs only sent three first-round picks as part of the Donovan Mitchell trade. The Hawks sent three first-round picks as part of the Dejounte Murray deal.
The Jazz were able to give five first-round picks in the deal for Rudy Gobert but one of those was a pick swap, so that really makes it four first-round picks and two of those picks will be from the 2027 and 2029 drafts, so considerably farther down the line than the Knicks pick.
But that also leads us to our next point: Anthony Davis is no longer the asset he once was.
Part of the reason Gobert was able to fetch such a package is that he is easily the best interior defender in the NBA and potentially the best overall defender in the NBA.
Last year, he ranked first in defensive rating, hauled in 14.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. Anthony Davis wasn’t ranked in the top 25. In 2020-21, Rudy Gobert also led the NBA in defensive rating, while Davis was similarly not in the top 25.
Now, part of that is because Davis has only played 76 games across the last two seasons, but that would be another factor in why this trade doesn’t work.
Davis is now 29 years old and has not played more than 62 games in a season since 2017-18. He remains an effective defensive presence when he is on the court, averaging 2.1 blocks and 9.2 rebounds per game during his time with the Lakers. He has also been an effective scorer, averaging 24.1 points on 51% shooting.
He would effectively replace Mitchell Robinson in this scenario as a staunch interior defender but also would be a sizeable upgrade as both an offensive scorer and an interior defender.
A grouping of Davis, Julius Randle, Jalen Brunson, and Immanuel Quickley would space the floor well and have enough offensive versatility to score more effectively than the current Knicks lineup. That’s not a question.
However, the trade makes no sense for the Knicks for a few reasons.
For one, it doesn’t address their biggest weakness of three-point shooting defense. Grimes is the Knicks’ best perimeter defender and could be a starter for them when he’s healthy. Replacing Robinson in the starting five with Davis doesn’t really address the issues Randle has on defense against the pick and roll.
Similarly, New York would be dealing two players who have taken clear steps offensively in RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin. The Knicks are better when Toppin is on the floor and, if anything, moving Randle to clear more minutes for Toppin would make more sense than dealing Toppin away and putting more scoring on Randle’s plate. He can already stop the flow of the offense as is.
Lastly, New York made it clear by acquiring picks in the last draft and not using them for an immediate deal that they are hoping to build something long-term. They have intriguing young talent in Brunson, Barrett, Toppin, Quickley, and Grimes and are armed with five first-round picks in the next two drafts and seven over the next three. That’s more than enough ammunition to build a true contender with young, controllable talent.
To throw that all away to acquire an oft-injured former superstar would be the Knicks of old, not the new Knicks we’re hoping for.