Fresh off an NBA championship, Anthony Davis is set to enter unrestricted free agency — but he’s not really a free agent.
The All-Star forward plans to decline his $28.7 million player option and re-sign with the Lakers, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Even prior to Los Angeles defeating Miami in the 2020 Finals, no one expected Davis to leave the Lakers after he forced his way out of New Orleans, so apologies to anyone hoping for a Kawhi Leonard-like sweepstakes.
However, there is a bit of intrigue about the terms of Davis’ next deal. Does the 27-year-old prefer a short-term contract to stay on the same timeline as LeBron James, or is he looking to lock in as much money as possible right now? Let’s evaluate his options.
(Note: Keep in mind these are merely projections. The players’ union and team owners must reach an agreement on how to handle a steep revenue drop due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s unclear what the final salary cap number will be.)
Contract 1: Two years, $68 million
This contract would give Davis the same kind of control over his future that James and Kevin Durant have harnessed in the past. With a player option on the second season, Davis could re-enter the free agency pool before the 2021-22 campaign along with James, who can opt out of his current deal at that time.
It’s unlikely that Davis and James would leave what seems to be an ideal situation in LA, but hey, there is some flexibility here.
Contract 2: Three years, $106 million
Bumping up to three years with a player option would allow Davis to hit 10 total years of service in the NBA before hitting free agency. Why does that matter? Davis would then be eligible to sign for 35 percent of the salary cap. (Kawhi Leonard made this exact move last summer.)
Additionally, a two-plus-one deal would probably ensure that James will take his player option and stay on board for another season, assuming he hasn’t already agreed to an extension by then.
Contract 3: Four years, $146 million
While going the four-year route could strike a nice middle ground between the desire for freedom and certainty, it’s difficult to formulate an explanation as to why Davis would walk through this door instead of the others available to him.
Choosing to accept a one-plus-one or two-plus-one deal sets up Davis to maximize earnings through his prime. If he wants guaranteed money, he should fully commit to the Lakers long-term.
Contract 4: Five years, $190 million
Davis could comfortably sleep at night knowing his financial future is secure. This would also serve as a signal to players around the league that they could join the Lakers’ franchise cornerstone for years to come.
By the end of this deal, Davis would only be 31 years old. He should still be a force at both ends of the floor and in position to receive another big check.
What will Anthony Davis do in free agency?
It’s hard to predict how Davis and his agent, Rich Paul, will approach negotiations with the Lakers, but a two- or three-year deal with a player option on the final season appears to be the most likely outcome.
That doesn’t mean Davis has designs on flying out of Los Angeles anytime soon. It just gives Davis the opportunity to re-examine the landscape of the league and potentially earn more if the cap jumps in the next couple of years.
Regardless of the specific details, Davis will be a Laker in 2021, ready to chase back-to-back titles with James. Must be nice to have nothing but good choices on the table.