In the NBA the weeks leading up to the start of free-agency typically involve some heavy decisions on the part of players—and some heavy negotiating on the part of teams and agents mapping out the futures of those players. That’s because most decisions for potential free-agents opting out of contracts are left to those critical days.
The 2019-20 season, obviously, is no typical season and free agency will not be typical, either. With the league planning to go ahead with a Disney World restart next month, the league and the union also worked out new dates for option clauses, with most coming just after the Finals are slated to wrap up on October 12.
For the most prominent member of the free-agent Class of 2020, Lakers big man Anthony Davis, there will be a relatively short period of decision-making. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Davis will be the first prominent potential free agent to have to make a decision on his contract—he will need to let the Lakers know his plans on October 14. Davis has an option year at $28.2 million next season.
Perhaps the No. 2 on the free-agent list, Boston’s Gordon Hayward, has a few more days to ponder. He will have to let the Celtics know on October 17 whether he will stay put on the fourth year of his deal, worth $34.7 million if he stays in Boston, or hit the open market.
Anthony Davis Faces Tough Decisions
Charania tabs a few other important free agents, including the Spurs’ DeMar DeRozan, the other top name on the market.
For Davis, the decision to opt out will depend on how much revenue the league can recoup by restarting the season and forcing its way through the playoffs, no matter how many players opt out. If next year’s salary cap—projected at around $115 million before the coronavirus pandemic struck—only drops by about $10 million, it would still be worthwhile for Davis to opt out and sign a new deal.
He can sign a deal starting at 30 percent of the salary cap in October 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. But that number will tumble, especially if the league’s plan to finish the season and crown a champion falls through.
If the league stays on track to play out the year, can rescue some revenue and play through the Finals, Davis’ deal will be able to start at more than $30 million. There has been speculation that he and others could sign 1-year deals.
Hayward Has Big Money on the Table
Hayward has a different decision ahead of him. While Davis is sure of getting a max deal, Hayward has struggled for much of his Celtics career after breaking his ankle in his first Boston game. Brought to Boston to become an All-Star, Hayward averaged 13.6 points in 118 games with the Celtics after averaging 15.7 points in 516 games in Utah to start his career.
He could potentially opt-out from his final season in Boston and sign a long-term deal. He could even opt out and re-sign with the Celtics. But he won’t get nearly as much as the $34.7 million he has coming to him to stay put. Many feel he will stick it out with his final season under contract in Boston and hit free-agency next summer.
He could stick with the Celtics in that scenario but he would maximize his salary that way.
“It’s too much money to pass up,” one general manager told Heavy.com. “He could get a longer deal if that is what he really wants. But I don’t think the Celtics want to give it to him, they have a lot of young guys to pay and the starting (salary) number on whatever the contract is will not be close to $34 million. He can opt in this year and then take a big contract next year. When you look at what he has done since his injury, he has only gotten better. He could get better next year and be ready for the summer of 2021.”