Anthony Davis is securely ensconced as the starting center for the New Orleans Pelicans, but that may be coming to an end. Though his contract runs through 2021, the final year is a player option, meaning Davis could become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2020. If he indicates his desire to do so, New Orleans would be forced to consider trading him to avoid seeing their franchise cornerstone walk away for nothing. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer penned a fantastic piece exploring the ins and outs of Davis’ decision and the seismic effect it could have on the rest of the NBA.
The traditional argument for any superstar remaining with his current team is the supermax contract, but O’Connor calculates that the difference might not be significant enough to sway Davis’ decision:
The supermax isn’t so super. It does not offer Davis significantly more than he can earn if he’s traded elsewhere under his current contract...
Between 2019-20 and 2024-25, Davis can earn $266.6 million with the Pelicans compared to a projected $252.3 million with a team that trades for him; that’s a difference of $14.3 million, or only $2.4 million per season. The differential could shift depending on how much the cap increases, but either way, the disparity ranges from moderate to minuscule.
O’Connor goes into greater detail. He also affirms that long-term guaranteed security lies in Davis remaining with the Pelicans, but he speculates that Davis may follow the path of LeBron James an insist on only short-term contracts anyway, rendering the point moot.
O’Connor lists possible suitors, most prominently the Boston Celtics, but also speculates that an event yet to unfold could sway the proceedings:
May 14, the night of the 2019 NBA draft lottery, could be one of the most important dates in recent league history. It will not only determine the destination of Duke prospect and presumptive no. 1 pick Zion Williamson, but also play a central role in determining Davis’s destiny. The Lakers could be Davis’s preference, but they don’t have as many assets as other teams, and given their current pace (20-14), they have nothing to gain on lottery night. A team that lands a top pick could move into pole position for Davis.
He offers the Knicks and Sixers (who get Sacramento’s pick if it ends up first overall in the draft lottery) as teams who could enter the sweepstakes if the ping pong balls bounce right.
The Los Angeles Lakers receive their own section of the article, as they’re a destination of mutual attraction.
O’Connor concludes by offering Davis as a test case for the viability of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement and the supermax provision.
Blazers fans will want to look at this piece to understand the landscape surrounding Davis, plus the possible ripple effect on other major free agents. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have the potential to become unrestricted free agents in 2021.