30-7 record. Currently the top seed in the NBA’s Western Conference. Playing with the best player in the world. Sunny, glamorous Los Angeles, California. Lakers Power Forward Anthony Davis has all of that and more going for him. Yet yesterday, Yahoo reported that Davis will test free agency this off-season rather than take the max contract extension that has been offered to him by the Lakers. He will forgo the 4 years and $148 million that he can make today, and risk it all this summer. All of this, despite requesting and being obliged to a trade to Los Angeles just this past summer. How could this be? What could the Lakers have done wrong?
The answer is likely, not very much. This is a calculated move by one of the ten best players in the NBA and his people, and it provides him with a lot of good options to position himself and his career into the future. Below, I will go through five of those options, and rank their likelihood by percentage.
Lets see what he have:
Davis opts in to his 1 year player option this summer (-1000% chance)
So this one isn’t a real choice, but I felt like it still needed to at least be addressed. On its face it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Davis has announced he will be turning down the 4 year extension he could be provided by the Lakers. So why opt in for one measly year at the end of the season? He would make less money signing this option than signing an all new deal and would have no longer-term contract. Further, Kevin Durant just had the worst injury a basketball player can get, and still accepted a max contract from the Brooklyn Nets. Its likely that even if the same happened to Davis, a max deal will be out there for him in the summer. Financial security isn’t an issue that would cause Davis to need to opt in. This isn’t happening.
Davis opts out this off-season and goes somewhere else (3%)
Is this possible? Yeah. Is it likely? No. But, if Davis for some reason really doesn’t like playing with LeBron or disaster strikes and James becomes injured long-term then there are a couple of teams out there that could provide the enticement for Davis to leave the Purple and Gold.
Chicago is his hometown and is struggling to find its leader and star on the floor. Plus, they will have a max salary slot available where Davis would fit quite nicely. An even better basketball option in Miami won’t have the space automatically, but could clear it with a trade or two. If they want to pass up the 2021 free agent sweepstakes (which stands to be much better than this coming summer’s) and pair Davis with Jimmy Butler they would become the best team in the Eastern Conference. Don’t put it past Pat Riley to flash his 6 rings and make a compelling case. Still, Davis will be hard pressed to find a situation better than his current one in the summer, especially when you consider he would make more money staying in LA.
Davis opts out, but then signs a 1 year deal with a player option for a second year (7%)
The good ol’ LeBron’s return to Cleveland deal. Davis has the same agent as James- Rich Paul, and they used this strategy very effectively in Cleveland. It applies pressure on the Laker front office to do every possible thing to be as competitive on the court as can be, and that’s something both Paul clients would benefit from. Davis could keep opting out every year like this for as long as he wanted, and then really test the market any year he desires. Like I previously mentioned, 2021 is a big free agent class year and teams are already clearing salary cap space for it. Davis could make himself available then and there, and if not could keep increasing his money with the Lakers every year re-signing new deals because of the way the collective bargaining agreement is structured. He might want more security than this though, which brings us to our next option.
Davis opts out this summer and then signs a long-term max deal for the most money and years possible (35%)
This choice is the obvious reason why Davis is currently turning down the extension that the Lakers have offered. He stands to be able to add a fifth year to his contract and an additional total of about $50 million to his payout by signing this off-season. The reason why has to do with the CBA, but to put it simply, Davis lost the ability to sign for this kind of money through a mid-season extension when he was traded from New Orleans to LA. Anyway, this option provides him the peace of mind of knowing that if a better opportunity really is out there, he can take it this summer, but he can definitely fall back on more money and a great situation in LA. He can continue to learn from LeBron as they will eventually shift roles between top player and side-kick over time (assuming LeBron actually does regress at some point before being eligible for Social Security). They are already in great position to win a title this year. Adding stability and continuity to their situation would just position them even better. Remember, LeBron has never won the title in his first year on a new team. Both times it was the second year. And that second year really might be the big one…
Davis opts out, then signs a 2-year deal with a 1-year option in the summer (55%)
On its face its sounds like a weird choice. Its not the LeBron-style 1 and 1 that applies pressure, and its not the full big money contract. BUT, players with 10 years vested in the NBA are eligible for a higher max contract than those with less years in the league. If Davis opts out after completing a new 2-year deal he will have been in the league for 10 years and be eligible for that larger contract. You know what else? LeBron could also be coming off the Lakers books that summer. So if the King decides he wants to return to Cleveland for part three, go somewhere new or just spend more time watching his sons play and making movies then Davis will have the opportunity to act accordingly. Oh, and its still to early to tell, but there’s a chance the Lakers could have another max slot available for their roster that summer no matter what Davis and James do (they actually have no commitments at all entering the summer of 2022). Maximum flexibility comes for Davis in this choice as he can decide what to do based on what LeBron does, what the Lakers do, and really what the general landscape of the NBA is come the summer of 2022. I think this is the choice. Hey AD, is my check for 10% in the mail?
Really, there is no bad choice here for Davis, only ones that are better than others. He sits in an enviable position, and that’s great for him. For better or for worse at this point, players like Davis are in charge of their destinies, and really the destinies of the league at large that they play in.
At this point, we are just along for the ride