The NBA trade deadline is fueled by pettiness as a foundational part of GM motives. The NBA trade rumors that come from this posture prove that this is a strategy.
NBA trade rumors have been flying for weeks leading up to Thursday’s NBA trade deadline at 3 p.m. ET. On Wednesday, the drama exploded with multiple deals, including a blockbuster that pins the Philadelphia 76ers as a potential threat to everyone in the Eastern Conference.
At the forefront of it all has been Anthony Davis, who has made it clear via his agent Rich Paul that he will not sign an extension with the New Orleans Pelicans and wishes to be traded away from the team.
The Los Angeles Lakers, who have been rumored by just about everyone to be interested in Davis, have put multiple bids in for the top-five player in the league, effectively bidding against themselves.
The Pelicans resisted this monster package reported by Brad Turner, having even ignored phone calls, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, for some time with the Lakers.
Some looked at their resistance as a poor strategy. Others called it petty.
As ESPN‘s Brian Windhorst revealed on Wednesday, however, there is a method to the madness.
Windhorst said this in response to Rachel Nichols on The Jump, hypothesizing that the Pelicans sat back and allowed the Lakers to put forth deals that would completely decimate their locker room:
"“It’s not just possible. It’s what happened.”"
"“The Pelicans have a method to their madness in the way this went.”"
Putting half their team on the trading block heading into the All-Star break and trade deadline is terrible for locker room chemistry. The Pelicans know this.
Is it petty? Yes. But is it a good strategy? Perhaps.
For smaller market teams, it may be one of their only forms of leverage in situations such as this.
As speculated by Adrian Wojnarwoski on Zach Lowe and Woj’s NBA Trade Deadline TV special on Wednesday:
"“You’re going to end up with [the Lakers] pick anyway, why not let them not play well through the rest of the year, end up in the lottery and [the Pelicans] get a higher pick if we decide to do this deal with the Lakers in the summer? Because the feeling with New Orleans has been ‘whatever the Lakers offer is now, it’s still going to be there for us later.’”"
With no Anthony Davis heading into the post-deadline part of the season and a locker room with questionable chemistry, it’s likely the Lakers will continue losing games, thus improving the ranking of the draft pick the Pelicans could potentially receive in an AD trade down the line.
This has already begun working. The Athletic‘s Shams Charania (subscription required) reported that the locker room is already in turmoil.
All of this follows a blockbuster trade between the Los Angeles Clippers and the 76ers in the early hours of Wednesday morning, which sent Tobias Harris to Philadelphia. There, the chess pieces were also moving.
The Clippers, who give their pick up to the Boston Celtics in this summer’s draft if they make the playoffs, are now fairly unlikely to make the postseason, thus increasing the likelihood that the Clips keep their pick.
All in the same sweep of the leg, the Clippers sent an arguably All-Star caliber player to the Sixers, a direct competitor for the Toronto Raptors. Kawhi Leonard, who was traded to the Toronto Raptors over the summer, is rumored to be interested in signing with the Clippers this summer, according to Woj.
The Raptors certainly hope they can prove to Kawhi that they’re worth it and that they can keep him around. To do that, they’ll likely need to win the Eastern Conference. That gets a lot harder with Harris joining forces with the likes of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler in Philadelphia.
While this isn’t as aggressively petty as the Pelicans convincing the Lakers to bid against themselves following what they saw as tampering, it is arguably petty by Jerry West to carry out his front office duties in this way.
“Petty szn” is here. But being petty is a strategy as well. NBA fans are here for all the drama.