Bringing The Brow to Broadway: lottery, odds, Cap analysis and NFL weirdness

In order for Anthony Davis to don the blue and orange, it’s going to take some luck, some patience, and some navigation of the weird obstacles which may arise; hurdles like accidentally winning games, CBA quirks, salary cap restrictions, negotiations with NFL people (?!) or someone the team burned a bridge with…these are all possible challenges.

But Davis might very well be the best player in the NBA over the next four years so let’s try to figure out how likely they are to get him as of today.

Step 1: land the first pick in the draft (~14%) and prepare to negotiate with football people and potential rivals

First off, if the Knicks want AD they probably have to land the first pick in the draft. The Knicks (11-47) stink and don’t appear very interested in changing that. The chances of them winding up with the best possible odds for the top pick seem high. Nate Silver’s website, 538.com projects them to be the worst team.

Don’t be fooled. That’s great, partly because of Zion Williamson. As Kevin Durant recently said, “Zion Williamson is a once-in-a-generation athlete.” We can infer that the New Orleans Pelicans may have recently felt the same way. It was reported by Frank Isola that former Pelicans’ GM Dell Demps was interested in negotiating with the Knicks in a trade for AD, but not without knowing what pick they had.

Per The Athletic: 

“According to a source familiar with the talks, Demps was not prepared to trade Davis to New York before knowing where the Knicks will select in the 2019 NBA Draft….

Demps was intrigued by the idea of selecting first and possibly drafting Duke freshman Zion Williamson.”

Now that Dell Demps has been fired this may change things, but it’s unclear exactly how. The Pelicans have a very weird power structure. Not only does the President of Football Operations for the New Orleans Saints, Mickey Loomis, the cities’ football team, have the most significant voice in the Pelicans’ front office, but the team is now looking to replace Demps.

Two names that have come up are David Griffin and Mike Zarren, and Isola speculates both could have reason to prefer working with other teams besides New York; the Knicks considered hiring Griffin once before negotiations reportedly went south, and Zarren is currently Danny Ainge’s second in command in Boston and a life long Celtics fan.

Regardless of who New Orleans settles upon to steer their ship, no other projected player in this year’s draft besides Williamson has truly separated himself from the pack. So keeping in mind that the Celtics are prepared to make an “explosive offer” likely headlined by their 20-year-old phenom Jayson Tatum, New York would need all the fire-power it can muster in order to outbid Boston.

Believe it or not, another reason why it is important to land the top pick for a potential Anthony Davis trade are salary implications. Draft picks are paid on a rookie scale amount with the first pick capable of earning about $3 million more than the 5th pick. This is important (as explained in a bit) in trying to match Davis’ salary in trade (which will be over $27m come July 1st).

Step 2: CBA and salary cap hoops to leap through

Special thanks to resident cap expert Knicks Film School (aka Jeffrey Bellone)

Winning the top pick isn’t likely. Even if the Knicks tank as hard as they can, there is an 86% chance the worst team won’t wind up with the top pick because of the league’s lottery reforms designed to curb tanking.

But even if New York gets the 1st pick, there are still more hurdles to clear. Because of the Rose Rule in the CBA, the Celtics (who have the most trade assets in the league) are not allowed to officially make an offer to New Orleans until July 1st, since they already have Kyrie Irving who signed a particular type of extension. Because of this, it does not make sense for the Pelicans to trade Davis before Boston is allowed to join the fray which would force every team to raise their offers.

The Pelicans not trading Davis this February essentially ensured they will wait until Boston can jump into the bidding waters come July.

If the Knicks want to include their 2019 draft pick in a trade, they have their own timing restriction. A draft pick cannot be traded until 30 days after that player has officially signed. Some fans will remember when the Cleveland Cavaliers won the top pick in the draft in 2014 and selected Andrew Wiggins. Because it often takes several weeks to sort out the details of a player’s contract, which it did in Wiggins’ case, the official trade which sent Kevin Love to Cleveland and Wiggins to Minnesota wasn’t consummated until late August.

Now if the Knicks have a winning bid that the Pelicans love, this logistics of when the deal becomes official might not matter. But it won’t make Steve Mills or Scott Perry feel very comfortable if they agree in principle to a deal in late June or early July but have to wait until late August for it to become official.

It simply gives folks like Danny Ainge, Magic Johnson and the rest of the league more time to increase their bids and try to convince the Pelicans to put an end to a saga that will by then have dragged on for about eight months. Think: we can finish this today on July 2nd, instead of waiting until nearly training camp for the Knicks to get their ducks in a row!

If Anthony Davis is indeed a target for the Knicks in this scenario, it would give New York an incentive to get Williamson under contract as soon as possible. They can offer the max 120% salary eligible to a top overall pick (amounting ~$9.7m in year 1) which carries appeal.

But what if Williamson’s camp happens to prefer New York? After all, he did say it “would be dope” to play with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. He could wait to see what happens in free agency and then exercise what little leverage he has by putting off signing his contract. He could indicate to the Pelicans an unwillingness to play there.

For New Orleans, the specter of a lengthy summer-long trade process for a player who may be less than overjoyed to come could be a deterrent. Conversely, it has been rumored that Jayson Tatum, for example, would not mind being traded to the Pelicans.

Hypothetically though…

Acquiring Zion should carry tremendous appeal for New Orleans. Described by many experts as the top prospect since Davis himself, signing Zion would mitigate some of the sting of losing Davis. Being able to get a player of that caliber under team control for likely 7 years (perhaps two more than Tatum, who will be a 3rd year player next season) after extension, in addition to the slew of young Knicks’ prospects (who’d need to be kicked in just to make the contracts match) should be very tempting. The Knicks could legitimately contend with the best offers from around the league in this scenario, a marvel in itself.

OK hypothetically, if the Knicks win the draft lottery, and if they wanted to trade their pick and if New Orleans prefers their offer to that of 28 other teams how might this shake out?

Just for fun, let’s assume the Knicks will have spent all of their cap-space long before a deal actually takes place. That’s likely if the Knicks win the top pick and are open to trading it. Let’s say they can get Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to join them.

(That’s obviously what’s being discussed here at the All-Star Game right?)

The timing of signing two max players like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving is important. The Knicks are projected to have just enough cap space to get a 10+ year veteran max and 7-9 year veteran max under contract. If they were to trade for Anthony Davis before signing these two max players, they would no longer have the requisite space to make the signings.

The reason the Knicks can entertain the idea of adding a player like Davis on top of two max players is because they can trade salary on their books to take back more salary (in this case, 125% of the outgoing salary).

So with Davis due to earn $27 million in 2019, New York would need to send out at least $21.6m in salary. Or another way to look at it: they only have to use $21.6 million in cap space instead of being required to have the full $27 million available if Davis were signing as a free agent or being absorbed into cap space in a trade.

The problem is that since the Knicks have cleared most of their roster to make space to sign two max players, the existing salary on the books available to trade is limited.

However, if they packaged Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr., and Kevin Knox together, they would have $13.7 million in aggregate salary. This is where the lottery pick becomes important. The rookie salary for the top pick at 120% of scale is $9.7 million, or just enough to push the Knicks over the $21.6 million threshold needed to make the salaries work in acquiring Davis.

Mitchell Robinson’s salary isn’t quite high enough to swap in for any one of the other young players, although he has played well enough lately it seems likely the Pelicans would insist upon including him as well.

Future draft picks don’t count against the cap next season so you can’t substitute those in for a young player but you can include them as well. To top Boston or Los Angeles or a surprise bidder, the Knicks may also have to include a future draft asset or three, although New York could potentially enjoy more assurances they’d be able to re-sign Davis in 2020 than at least Boston, per reports of Davis’ preferences.

Then New York would be looking at minimum roster charges and a ~$5 million Room Exception to fill out the rest of the roster. They could decide to bring back Allonzo Trier using the Room Exception, and sign Damyean Dotson to a minimum deal similar to what he would be earning if the team just guarantees his contract.

The rest of the roster would be thin, although it wouldn’t be surprising if a core of Durant, Irving, and Davis attracted every cheap, savvy “ring-chasing” veteran in free agency or next winter’s buyout market to help flesh out the team’s depth.

What are the chances?

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Let’s boil this down to a number.

There’s the great chance the Knicks won’t get the top pick. The slim chance they win the lottery but won’t want to trade it away (maybe Kevin Durant comes and would prefer to play with Zion and all the young guys or maybe he stays in Golden State and the Knicks refuse to part with Zion). There is the solid chance that another team simply blows the Knicks’ offer out of the water and the unknown chance that New Orleans wants a swift resolution that a deal with New York would preclude.

All in all, I’d ballpark the chances of the Knicks trading for Anthony Davis somewhere around 5 to 7 percent as of today.

The odds will probably rocket up towards 40 percent or more if they win the lottery come this May depending on things like how much the Pelicans’ future GM loves Zion, if any other college players step up, what happens in free agency, or a player potentially involved in the trade gets seriously hurt.

It really comes down to the lottery. If the Knicks don’t win the lottery, they probably don’t have the best offer to convince New Orleans to complete a deal. They also would struggle to meet the salary matching requirements if they fall out of the top 2 in the draft.

To win a title in the NBA, you need to hit on some long-shot odds more than once. Having a 14% chance at Zion Williamson, possibly landing guys like Kevin Durant, and then navigating CBA hurdles or negotiating on the phone with some folks who may be more interested in football than hoops… that could be the path to restoring the Knicks to glory.

Imagine? You get to tell your grandkids that Steve Mills made a trade with an NFL team President for Anthony Davis, future Finals MVP of the New York Knicks. 

Having a six or seven percent shot at Anthony Davis is a heck of a lot better odds than fans in say, Charlotte or Detroit will ever have. New York is still a cool city players truly seem to want to play in, and even with lottery reform, it still just might pay big to avoid winning games.

Now they’ll have to keep losing, get lucky, and be patient while jumping over some weird hurdles and parting with all of their young guys to bring The Brow to Broadway by August.

KFS Teacher’s Lounge: What to do about Anthony Davis

The basketball world experienced an 8.2 on the Richter scale on Monday after Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Anthony Davis had informed the New Orleans Pelicans he would not be re-signing there and was requesting a trade. Word then got out, courtesy of ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, that the Knicks were indeed a team of interest to Davis. Since then, there seems to be some posturing from the Davis camp that it’s LA or bust. Still, the Knicks are apparently preparing a significant offer according to the New York Times’ Marc Stein.

One thing is for certain: there’s enough smoke for the KFS staff to chime in on the rumors and reveal what they would do if they had to make a decision on pursuing the Brow:

Michael DeStefano – Hold Steady

When the AD news broke and we decided to discuss it in the Lounge, I wrote that you had to go after him. Transcendent talent, only 25 – I was ready to say that you include both KP AND the ’19 pick in your offer.

I’ve changed my mind. The collusion involving the agency that LeBron owns runs works with is part of it, but it’s not the biggest part.

Bigs just don’t impact winning in this league like they used to.  You need an elite guard/wing, and then you need more depth on the perimeter. New Orleans won’t give AD for just KP and filler; Perry will have to fork over the ’19 first and at least one of the Knicks’ young core most fans are so excited about. The Pels’ willingness to take on Hardaway’s contract might tempt me, but I’d rather enter July with:

  • A healthy KP
  • All five of Frank / Knox / Mitch / Trier / Dotson
  • My ’19 stud, and
  • A max salary slot

This is opposed to the AD version, which would cost at least two of the five young’uns and the ’19 lotto pick. Decimating the depth, particularly on the perimeter, is not the way to win in this league. Even though KD might find Davis an appealing sidekick, how appealing is it if the rest of the team sucks?

Wait it out.  Let the draft come and go.  See what the team looks like.

And if you get back-channeled word that KD wants another star, that’s when you use your assets to go get someone like Dame.

David Early – Don’t blow your chance

The first thing you do is offer Kevin Knox and the pick, protected for first overall. Then when they chuckle, you swap in Kristaps Porzingis for Knox. Then at the last minutes you offer KP, Frank Ntilikina, and the pick protected for 1st overall.

As a bottom line, you suck it up and you offer KP and the unprotected pick for AD, plus the requisite salary filler. It’s horrifying, but it’s also an easy decision.

The truth is, the pick has an 86-91% chance of being Cam Reddish or someone not named Zion. Combining the very likely scenario you won’t win the Zion sweepstakes with the risks associated with KP’s rehab (remember his doctor said that if he doesn’t change his whole body’s mechanics he’d be at risk for tearing the other ACL makes this a prudent “hedge.”

It will become almost impossible to outbid other suitors this summer when Boston or a team who wins Zion (like Chicago) enters the fray. This is the best chance right now. It’s not for the faint of heart. But if you can obtain the player who we’d all bet will be the best player in the league over the next four years, this isn’t really a hedge at all. It’s simply bundling a few juicy assets with uncertain outcomes for quite possibly the best player in the sport who is only now entering his prime.

He’s already been rumored to be open to staying. He’ll exponentially increase your chances of luring Durant. Durant could win another 3 rings in Golden State. None of it will alter his legacy like winning one in the Big Apple. He knows it. And the Brow makes that a very real possibility.

Our lottery ticket and injured Unicorn for your healthy Unicorn King. I’ll fax the paper work.

Suada Demirovic – Why now?!?

Just as I was about to justify our losses as the Knicks finally figured out how to tank correctly without taking shortcuts, the basketball gods dangle 6-time All-Star Anthony Davis in front of us!

At first I didn’t even want to entertain the idea. Good things never come to the Knicks via trade. Take a look at the last few trades we’ve made, even the “blockbuster” trade that never panned out the way it should have. Yeah, let’s not go there. The Knicks have never really won a big trade.

That said, for the 1st time in a while, New York will have a few pieces to engage in trade talks. We have the best double-double machine in the league and he’s only 26! (laughter dies down) Clearly I’m kidding but I couldn’t help myself. “We want Kanter”? New Orleans, you can have him!

After seeing all the Twitter GM’s working their trade machines, I’m convinced that maybe this is exactly what the Knicks need. But at what cost?

The only pieces that I would not give up are ou . r 3 rookies. They really show they can be complimentary pieces that can turn into All-Stars in the future. So what are we going to give for AD? I’m willing to throw this year’s lottery pick and just about anyone else they ask for. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but yes, even KP. I’ve gone mad! Here I go looking for a short cut, but not really because this short cut has the potential to bring us more, as Anthony Davis will definitely be able to draw in a good free agent this summer.

But then I think about Zion…(sigh)…

It really sucks that the odds for the top pick are tied between the 3 worst teams. Of course this happens the year the Knicks tank correctly. So we might need to face the reality that we may not win the ultimate prize and instead end up with a consolation. The problem is that everyone else is just “meh.” But a high 1st round pick is still very valuable, especially to a franchise that needs to blow up their whole roster.

The writing is on the wall for NOLA. Let us help you light the dynamite. If anything, we would gladly trade what we have for Jrue Holiday at the very least. We would NOT be giving up KP for him, but there are other possibilities.

Here’s where I come down: Would I trade this year’s draft pick for Anthony Davis? Yes! Would I trade KP? I would, only because Davis is liked in the league and who knows who would want to join him as they write a new legacy in New York with a young core?

Here I go looking for a quick fix! But this is 20 years of us not getting it together, and New York is definitely not going to get it together with one draft pick. I’m for the front office exploring the possibilities without giving up our rookies or impacting our cap space. The Knicks should avoid giving up KP unless we have no choice and the deal is too hot to pass up! Here’s the first real test for Perry and Mills. I’m going to sit back and wait. Will they stick to what they said? You can’t get us to buy in if they themselves can’t.  #TrustTheProcess

Vivek Dadhania – It’s a no from me, dog…

It’s tempting, but there are a lot of variables in play that make me wary of pursuing a deal. First and foremost, the trade only makes sense if you know if you’re getting KD.  If you don’t get Durant, then what happens?  We’re basically a worse version of the Pelicans that still has to navigate against a behemoth of teams in the East.  It won’t be any easier to navigate to the playoffs with Anthony Davis.  If he found it bad in New Orleans, imagine what it’ll be like in New York.

Let’s also not forget that while Anthony Davis has been relatively durable the last few seasons, he’s suffered many nagging injuries this year and has had those injury concerns in years’ past.  There’s no safe bet – especially as a big man – that he’ll be a reliably healthy option, especially entering his 2nd extension period.

If I’m New York, I’d understand (if they haven’t already) that they are merely being fiddled around with to get the Lakers to hurry up and acquire their man.  Don’t cave in.

Stephanie Enriquez – The kids are alright!

Call me crazy, but I don’t want to give up KP or the kids.

I know Davis is a great talent, but I want us to continue the process and not deal our picks yet. Kevin is a stud in the making, Mitch is learning more and more everyday, Zo is great, Frank’s defense is much needed and he will continue to grow as well. As for everyone else on the team, trade them all.

Sadly, I don’t think it’ll be enough for AD. Nonetheless, if KD comes this summer, KP recovers, and our kids continue to grow I think we’ll be ok.

Topher DemitrisStick to the Plan

Let’s get a few objective things out of the way.

Yes, I too love Anthony Davis. He’s a phenom and tremendous player who has the potential to drop 30 with 15 on any given night. In a perfect world, the Knicks would be able to entertain a mutually beneficial trade with the Pelicans that could set the stage for (at least) a return to the playoffs. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that reality. The Pelicans would be wise to start a bidding war between the Lakers, Celtics and New York. We aren’t in a position of leverage in this scenario.

The asking price for Davis – a potential one year rental – would likely require the team to completely burn all the groundwork they’ve put into the rebuild. The Lakers starting price, for comparison, is four talented young players and future draft considerations. So pretty much their entire roster. That might work for LeBron (the guy could take a YMCA team to the first round of the playoffs), but it’s not an ideal situation for the New York Knicks.

It’s not that Anthony’s talent isn’t incredible. My objection to betting the farm comes down to three things. First, there is zero actual guarantee1 that if traded, he would stay in NY. His agent is LeBron’s agent. Davis teamed up with Rich Paul because his true destination is Los Angeles.

Secondly, acquiring him would likely mean our roster gets completely gutted. Goodbye Knox, Trier, Mitch, Ntilikina and the draft pick(s) we’ve all been suffering to acquire. It’s too early to know how good some of these young guys are and they are worth investing at least another year in. I won’t even get into the idea of trading KP (unless management knows something about his injury that we don’t). The best case scenario would be to pair AD with KP anyway. Given that New Orleans can ask for a King’s Ransom, the price is already too steep and bound to increase.

Third, and no shade, but Anthony Davis has a long injury history despite his young age. On top of that, the Pelicans have arguably had much better rosters than anything we’ve seen in NY for years and were still unable to make any real headway in the playoffs. If we gut our team to acquire him, it would be a similar asset exchange as the one that brought Carmelo here. We’d have a Superstar but no real way to build out a contending team. LeBron knows better than anyone: a well put together team is more powerful than any one player (see: the Mavs, Spurs & now Warriors).

After the trade there would be immense pressure on both the front office & Davis to deliver and we all know how brutal/impatient the media is. There is no guarantee Durant leaves Golden State and no guarantee Davis stays beyond a single year. The risk outweighs the reward for me. Abandoning years of scouting, development and team building for the 1-year rental of a superstar is so old school Knicks that my eye is twitching over my coffee.

Assuming the price remains sky high, a trade now looks to be another recipe for vaulted expectations & disappointment. Why hamstring the healthy rebuild track we’re currently on? This is literally the first time in decades the Knicks have opted to build correctly and I’ve got no interest in repeating the mistakes of past regimes. Stay the course, build slowly and winning will attract all the great players we need.

Jonathan Macri – “I’m all in” … “Waitress, can I get some water?”

The question is simple for the Knicks: do you want to put KP on the table or not?

It’s a more interesting discussion than people are making it out to be, simply because KP’s ceiling might be what AD is right now, and the odds the Unicorn ever gets there are only further complicated by the torn ACL. It’s why there’s a significant chance that if the Knicks did offer KP and the unprotected pick, the Pelicans still might prefer to wait till the summer so they can get the Celtics involved.

That’s where things get dicey for New York. Right now, they can sell New Orleans on the possibility of Zion Williamson. By mid-May, that possibility may have vanished. If it does, there’s a significant chance that nothing New York could put on the table – KP, the pick, Knox, Mitch…the whole boat – would beat the best offer Boston can make, assuming they’re willing to make Tatum available2.

So from that perspective, there is a sense that acting now is the wisest move. The reason it isn’t is simple: if you give up KP, the pick and Kevin Knox3 before February 7 and neither Kevin Durant nor Kyrie Irving comes this summer, you’re going to watch AD walk out the door in 2020. Can the organization take that risk? If they did, and the worst of fates transpired, then all the losing – well, the most recent losing at least – will have been for not.

But is it really a risk? Sure, it’s tempting to say that the only way it makes sense to put such a serious offer on the table now is if you know from back channels that AD will be bringing a Super Friend with him. That’s not happening. KD and Kyrie might be two of the more perplexing personalities in the entire league, and no one knows what the hell either will do.

But do you really see a scenario where both guys eschew the opportunity to play along the man poised to dominate the game4 for the next decade in a city where they’ll build monuments to whoever finally delivers a ring? You have to figure that if one guy says yes, that alone is worth whatever you had to give up for Davis, Porzingis included.

When you throw in the uncertainty over KP’s injury, his feelings about the organization (or lack thereof), and the possibility that he himself could maneuver out of here before long, it becomes a mighty sweaty conversation to have with your front office mates as the deadline approaches. Of course, the ultimate doomsday scenario features KP catching wind of your intent to trade him, a deal not happening, and Perry & Mills being left to clean up the pieces.

Assuming the front office doesn’t have the stomach for such a high stakes game of poker, they should at the very least make a token offer (this year’s unprotected first, a 2021 pick, Mitch, Frank and Tim Hardaway Jr., or Enes Kanter if the Pels prefer to clear the books) and see where it gets you.

The answer is almost certainly “not very far.” And maybe that’s not the worst thing. If the Knicks do land the first pick, then all of the sudden they hold all the cards. Zion plus non-KP-stuff arguably beats any other offer, including one with Tatum. At that point, they may not need to work very hard to strike KD’s fancy. He may instead beat them to the punch.

So ultimately, it comes down to this: Do they feel lucky?

Well, do ya, punk?