By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Celtics fans are bracing for a wild ride this offseason. Kyrie Irving’s free agency alone will lead to plenty of sleepless nights for those who go to bed in green footie pajamas.
And then there is Boston’s pursuit of Anthony Davis, the Pelicans star who desperately wants out of New Orleans. Danny Ainge has been smitten with the seven-footer since Davis’ one dominating season at Kentucky, and has always been ready to pounce the last five years should David hit the trade market. That time is now, and Ainge has all the pieces to pull off a move.
The thought was Ainge could cash in on Boston’s young talent and enticing future draft picks to beat out anyone else’s offer, pairing Davis up with Irving to form an Eastern Conference superpower. But Kryie is throwing a wrench at that plan, as he appears set to leave the Celtics at the altar this summer. We’ve heard plenty about Irving wanting to play for the Knicks, and some absurd theories that he would go to L.A. to join forces with LeBron James once again. But now there is an actual Woj Bomb in the mix, with Adrian Wojnarowski reporting Irving and the Brooklyn Nets are in the middle of a little love affair with each other.
If Irving bolts, that would likely end Boston’s quest for Davis, right? At that point, they’d be better off just building around the likes of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, rather than trade them away for what may be just one season of Davis in green. It would be hard to convince Davis to take a max deal next summer if the Celtics trade away most of their franchise’s framework for the six-time All-Star.
But this is Danny Ainge we’re talking about, and he doesn’t take the path that most NBA execs usually would. And that is no different now that he finally has a chance to snag Davis. According to NBA insider Chris Mannix, Ainge is going to pursue a Davis trade whether Irving sticks around in Boston or not.
“From what I understand, they’re not going to take their foot off the gas when it comes to pursuing Anthony Davis,” Mannix said on The Crossover podcast.
That could mean a few things. The Celtics could trade for Davis in hopes of the move convincing Irving to sign a max deal with them, thus giving them a dynamic pair of stars to build around. In that sense, it would work out pretty well for Boston (questions about Irving’s attitude aside), since that would be a formidable duo to start with.
Or they just really want a stud like Davis, and Ainge thinks it’s worth taking the risk despite a price tag that will likely cost the C’s a combination of Tatum, Brown, Marcus Smart, the future Memphis Grizzlies pick and a handful of their own selections (New Orleans reportedly covets Tatum). Get Davis to Boston and convince him that the franchise will building a winning team around him — with or without Kyrie. Maybe it will work, as it did with Paul George in Oklahoma City and potentially with Kawhi Leonard in Toronto (the Raptors actually winning a title would certainly help them on that front). Davis is an absurdly talented big man who can do just about everything on the floor, one of the few players worth such a heavy risk.
But if Kyrie is gone, and Davis doesn’t see Boston as a good fit after next season, then Ainge just lost 90 percent of his treasure trove from the great Brooklyn Heist of 2013 for one season of Davis. Ouch.
But if we know anything about Ainge, he’s a man who is more than willing to take a risk for a big move.