Superstar big man Anthony Davis holds a $28.75MM player option for the 2020/21 season, but the expectation is that he’ll turn down that option in order to sign a new contract with the Lakers. Asked after Sunday’s win about his potential free agency, Davis was noncommittal, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes.
“I have no idea,” Davis said. “I don’t know.”
Asked to clarify his initial comment, Davis continued: “I had a great time in L.A. this first year. This has been nothing but joy, nothing but amazement. Over the next couple of months, we’ll figure it out. I mean, I’m not 100% sure, but that’s why my agent (Rich Paul) is who he is, and we’ll discuss it and figure it out.”
Davis faced a significant backlash during the 2018/19 season when he publicly requested a trade out of New Orleans and made it clear that the Lakers were his preferred landing spot. After a few uncomfortable months following his initial request, he got the trade he wanted, and his first season in L.A. played out about as well as he could have hoped.
Davis averaged 26.1 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 3.2 APG, and 2.3 BPG in 62 regular season games (34.4 MPG) for the Lakers, finishing sixth in MVP voting and second in Defensive Player of the Year voting. He followed that up by recording 27.7 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.5 APG, and 1.4 BPG in 21 postseason contests en route to the first title of his career.
“It’s just part of your legacy, to say you’re a champion,” the 27-year-old said on Sunday, per Youngmisuk. “Not everybody can say that. I wanted to do the same thing in New Orleans. … When I got traded, that’s all I wanted was to be a champion. To be able to compete, be able to win. I was able to do that my first year with the Lakers.”
It may seem unusual in the wake of such a successful year that Davis wouldn’t express a desire to return to the Lakers in stronger terms. Still, it would be shocking if he seriously considers signing with another club once he becomes a free agent. Any uncertainty he conveyed on Sunday about his situation likely applies to the length and structure of his next contract rather than his destination.
The salary cap for the 2020/21 season remains up in the air, but the cap would have to dip substantially to make it worthwhile for Davis to consider opting in for $28.75MM. If the cap remains at the same level as it did in ’19/20, AD’s maximum salary on a new contract would be about $32.74MM.
While the Lakers would certainly be willing to put a five-year, maximum-salary offer on the table for Davis this fall, it might make more sense for him to accept a shorter-term deal, especially with the NBA’s cap situation in flux. In 2022, he’d be able to receive a starting salary worth 35% of the cap, rather than the 30% he can get now, so waiting until then to sign a long-term contract would allow him to maximize his future earnings.