When the Lakers traded a raft of young players and draft picks for Anthony Davis last summer, the expectation was that they were doing so with some assurance that Davis wanted to be a Laker and would sign a long-term deal with the team when he was eligible to hit free agency after the 2019-20 season.
He is likely to stay put. But for how long?
The onset of the novel coronavirus in the U.S., which caused the league to suspend play in March, has injected uncertainty into the NBA’s financial projections. That uncertainty is most likely to affect players who can be free agents in the near term, like Davis. Because of that, there is increasing speculation that Davis—and other free agents like him—will seek to sign one-year contracts until the league’s revenue situation is more squared away.
It’s a risk for players who will sacrifice the security of a longer deal. But it will mean a better payout in the end.
One agent told John Hollinger of The Athletic, “It’s just too much unknown. … It probably makes sense for everybody to sign a one-year deal. Even the big free agents—like Anthony Davis—sign a one-year deal [this summer] and see what the numbers are for ’21 and sign a contract based off the projections for that.”
Anthony Davis Played to Expectations This Year
In early January, Davis turned down a four-year, $146 million contract extension from the Lakers, an offer that was mostly a formality because Davis was always expected to focus on free agency this summer.
Davis has a $28 million player option for 2020-21 which he will likely decline. But the uncertainty in the current market could lead him to opt in for next season, depending on how much of a hit the salary cap takes.
Davis certainly is not leaving the Lakers. He has had a stellar season in his first go-round with L.A., averaging 26.7 points and 9.4 rebounds, shooting 51.1% from the field. He is blocking 2.4 shots per game to go with 1.5 steals. While teammate LeBron James has gotten more attention as an MVP candidate, Davis merits consideration, too.
As former Laker Metta World Peace told Heavy.com’s Scoop B Robinson, “I knew about Anthony Davis, but I didn’t know that he was THAT good. But when you actually watch him play, him being a Laker and watching in all those Lakers games with that style of play, I didn’t know he was like, that great.”
NBA Suspension Hurts Anthony Davis Free Agency
Davis can sign a deal starting at 30 percent of the salary cap in the summer and can sign for five years with 8% raises each season if he stays with the Lakers. He can only sign for four years if he goes elsewhere, with 5% raises.
Based on cap projections from before the pandemic, Davis’s max deal would have started at $34.8 million and totaled $202 million over five years. That would be $149.6 million over four years if he signed elsewhere.
That number will tumble. If the league’s plan to finish the season and crown a champion falls through, the cap could drop by about $20 million and Davis’ deal could start at about $28.5 million. If the league can rescue some revenue and play through the Finals, Davis’ deal will be able to start at more than $30 million.
Still, it would be worth it for him to just sign for one year and see how the league’s revenues bounce back for next season.