Although Pelicans officials have repeatedly stated they have no intention to trade Davis, his contract situation may leave them with no choice. He is eligible for a supermax extension this summer that could be worth up to $239.5MM, but is only one season away from his player option if he doesn’t accept that offer.
Davis changed his representation over the summer, signing with LeBron James‘ agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, in a move that some believe was made to get him out of New Orleans.
“I’m not worried about James tampering to the media about AD,” a Western Conference GM told Pincus. “It’s that James and Paul are mafioso mob bosses of the NBA that’s the problem.”
Several small-market GMs raised concerns about tampering this week after James said Davis would be “amazing” to have as a teammate. Commissioner Adam Silver refused to take any disciplinary action against James, and the Lakers’ star raised more speculation by having dinner with Davis after their teams played on Friday.
The executives that Pincus spoke to don’t believe Davis will be moved before the February 7 trade deadline, but they do expect something to happen by draft day. The feeling is that Davis will decline the Pelicans’ extension offer and force them to move him for a package that’s stocked with young talent and draft picks.
“It’s going to be up to [Pelicans general manager] Dell [Demps] to decide where Davis plays next,” an Eastern Conference executive said. “Paul will get him traded, but it’s going to be up to Demps to get the best deal.”
That could work to the advantage of the Celtics, who, depending on protections, may own the Clippers’, Grizzlies’ and Kings’ picks next summer as well as their own. Boston can’t trade for Davis until Kyrie Irving opts out of his current contract, so the Celtics would need to reach an agreement with New Orleans before the draft that wouldn’t take effect until the moratorium is lifted in early July.
Pincus speculates Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown will be the cornerstones of Boston’s offer, although Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris and Al Horford are all potential pieces. He sees Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball as the key players in a Lakers deal, along with a few others to match salaries.
A 15% trade kicker in Davis’ contract could give the Lakers the advantage in their pursuit, Pincus adds. The Pelicans would have to pay Davis an additional $5.4MM if he gets traded during the season or $4.1MM if the deal happens over the summer. If Paul wants to get Davis to the Lakers, he could agree to waive the trade kicker only if Davis is sent to L.A.
Pincus also notes that because the Lakers will be under the cap this summer, they will have the freedom to restructure Davis’ contract, giving him $32.7MM for next season and extending the deal through 2021/22 at a total of $70.3MM for the following two years. When Davis hits free agency in 2022 as a 10-year veteran, he would be eligible for a starting salary at about $46MM, giving him a total deal only about $16MM less than his supermax offer.