David Griffin thanks rival Celtics for leverage in Anthony Davis trade talks

Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

New Orleans Pelicans president David Griffin thanked the Boston Celtics for helping beef up the trade return for Anthony Davis a few years ago. 

With Damian Lillard and James Harden both seeking new homes, trade requests are front of mind for NBA fans the world over. It’s easy to then think back to the summer Anthony Davis asked out of New Orleans. He, not unlike Dame, had a very clear and decisive one-team preference.

Davis wanted the Lakers and only the Lakers. He may have been more willing to poke around the idea of second or third options than Lillard, but there was never any doubt about where Davis wanted to end up.

The Pelicans would ultimately ship Davis to the Lakers for a massive haul built around Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart. Is Damian Lillard destined for a similar outcome with Miami? And can Portland get the same collection of young talent and draft picks that New Orleans did to kickstart its rebuild?

Pelicans team president David Griffin offered some insight into how the Davis-Lakers trade came to fruition.

Pelicans’ David Griffin thanks Boston Celtics for making Anthony Davis trade possible

The Pelicans ultimately received quite the haul for Davis, but not because the Lakers were bidding against an empty room. New Orleans managed to stir up interest in Davis despite his one-team preference — with the Boston Celtics emerging as the primary threat to LA’s simple and smooth acquisition of the superstar 7-footer.

“It gave us leverage we probably didn’t deserve,” uttered Griffin. A telling admission. Davis had only one year left on his contract and he vocally did not approve of Boston as a landing spot. Or at least his father didn’t approve of Boston, citing the Celtics’ lack of loyalty toward star players like Isaiah Thomas.

Here is where the Davis trade saga veers in a slightly different direction from the Lillard trade saga. Both players wanted one team and one team only. Both players were willing to shade other franchises to get their desired result. But — the ever so critical but — Davis had one year left on his contract. There was simply no guarantee he would stick around for more than a single season with a team he didn’t like.

Lillard, on the other hand, has four years left on his contract. He’s also older than Davis was, with plenty of recent injury history to scare teams off the market. Lillard will make roughly $60 million per year in his age-35 and 36 seasons. That’s a steep price for a small guard who already struggles defensively.

Davis was a top-5 superstar in his prime with a mountain of leverage on his side — and the Pelicans managed to wrench enough leverage out of other teams to get their desired outcome (while also granting Davis’ wish). With Lillard, teams aren’t so eager to get in on the bidding war, ironically because of his long-term stability.

Now, could more suitors than just Miami emerge? Yes. Many probably have. But how many top-shelf offers can Portland expect given Dame’s defiant attitude, age, and contract? Probably not as many as GM Joe Cronin and the front office would have hoped for even last season, before the Blazers left themselves with no alternative but to send Lillard away while their bargaining power is lowest.

David Griffin is thanking the Celtics years later. Joe Cronin will hope another team can fill a similar role in the Lillard saga before his star point guard ends up in Miami for pennies on the dollar.

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