Do not panic, Lakers fans. Anthony Davis does plan to be back with the team next season and the Lakers certainly expect him to return. But as NBA free agency opens Friday evening, no announcement on a new deal for Davis is expected—and, in fact, you could be digesting your turkey and stuffing next week before the Lakers get Davis’ signature on a new deal.
That is according to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reported that though Davis’ agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, plans to talk to Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka on Friday night, “Davis plans to wait minimally through Thanksgiving as he considers his options on the length and structure of maximum contract deals.”
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Davis entered the offseason with a $28.7 million player option for 2020-21 on his contract, which he turned down in order to become an unrestricted free agent. Few teams—the Knicks and Hawks are among them—have the money to be able to sign him in free agency and he is not planning to meet with any teams outside of the Lakers before he re-signs.
Why Would Anthony Davis Wait on New Lakers Deal?
So what’s the holdup? Well, Davis will take a look at how the Lakers’ roster sizes up and make a decision on how he wants to structure his contract from there.
Davis could just sign an outright maximum-salary, maximum-years contract worth $190 million over five years. He could include an opt-out after four years, a standard feature of long-term contracts. That was the kind of deal he signed in New Orleans in 2015—five years and $145 million, with the coming season as his option year.
Had Davis stayed with the Pelicans, he was eligible for a supermax deal, which would have paid him in the neighborhood of $240 million. He turned down that extension from the team last year. Davis also turned down a four-year, $146 million contract extension in January of this year—before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and took a chunk out of the NBA’s finances.
But Davis might be looking at a shorter deal. He could sign a “one-and-one” deal with the Lakers, which would basically be a two-year contract with an option on the 2021-22 season ($32.7 million for Year 1, $34.3 million for Year 2). That would benefit the Lakers by allowing them to pursue another player on the free-agent market next summer but could hurt Davis if the league’s salary cap sinks because of the pandemic.
Or Davis could sign a “two-and-one” deal, which is basically three years but with an option on the third year. The total on that deal would be $103 million and it would allow Davis to become a free agent at the same point as LeBron James.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Situation Could Affect Davis Decision
Mostly, though, waiting on Davis’ contract probably comes down to letting the team’s other situations play themselves out before he signs. Because the Lakers own Davis’ Bird Rights, they are able to re-sign him even if the team is over the cap. The Lakers enter free agency with only six players (LeBron James, Dennis Schroder, JaVale McGee, Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, Talen Horton-Tucker) under contract. There is much yet to be determined.
The Lakers have another key free agent, wing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, also on their radar. Waiting to re-sign Davis could leave the team some flexibility to match an offer that KCP might get elsewhere. He’s been rumored to have attracted interest from Atlanta, which has cap space this summer and is Caldwell-Pope’s hometown.
Caldwell-Pope is also represented by Klutch Sports.