EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — The Los Angeles Lakers gave up a ton to get Anthony Davis in purple and gold, and are presumably hoping he’ll opt to re-sign with them when he opts out of the final year of his current contract enters unrestricted free agency this summer.
At his introductory press conference on Saturday at the team’s practice facility, however, Davis made no such promises.
“Honestly I’m focused on the season. When I got traded here my goal was to bring a championship here with the team that we have, and when that time comes around next year, you can ask me that question and we’ll revisit it,” Davis said.
“But right now, my focus is on this year and how I can help this team and help this organization become a championship team.”
Still, this may not be reason to panic, because there are plenty of signs that point towards Davis re-signing being mostly a formality.
For one thing, on the day Davis was traded to the Lakers, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that Davis “has long planned to sign a new contract with the Lakers once he becomes eligible for free agency in 2020.”
Why would he want to opt out before doing that? Well as the brilliant Jeff Siegel of EarlyBirdRights.com explained, if Davis were to extend with the Lakers, they could only offer him 120% of his current salary (approximately $27.1 million because he waived his trade kicker) in the first year of his new deal, with 8% raises after that for up to four extra years.
That would not be as much money as the Lakers can give Davis if he becomes a free agent this summer. The Lakers will have full Bird rights on Davis, meaning they can offer him the max, which for a player of eight years of service would be 30% of the cap for next season — a deal starting at $35.1 million and totaling $203.58 million over five years.
That’s already more money than Davis could get on an extension, but health permitting, the most lucrative path may be for Davis to sign a so-called “2+1,” according to Siegel. This would mean Davis would sign a three-year deal with an opt out after the second season, which would allow Davis to re-enter free agency with 10 years of service and sign for a max contract worth 35% of the cap instead of 30%.
If the Lakers were still willing to pay Davis a max at that point — which (health permitting) would seem likely since he’ll only be 29 years old then — he could make approximately $266.4 million on a five-year deal in 2022.
If that’s too many numbers for you, the TL;DR version is that Davis has significant financial incentives to stay in L.A. As we’ve seen with the Kawhi Leonard saga and with Davis himself forcing his way to the Lakers, getting the most money possible isn’t always the primary motivation for stars, but Davis would be turning down a lot of cash by leaving the Lakers.
He would also be departing a city that he seems to be enjoying a lot so far.
“I haven’t had much interactions with the fans, but I know when the trade first happened, they put a mural up of me,” Davis said, smiling and laughing. “I thought that was pretty cool.”
How much the fans love this team was one of the several reasons that Davis wanted to make his way to Los Angeles.
“Any time the Lakers came to New Orleans, it was all Lakers (fans). So I know the fanbase is pretty crazy, and they travel heavy, so I’m excited about that,” Davis said.
There is just one part of living in Southern California that he isn’t a fan of so far.
“The only thing that I can’t get used to is traffic. It’s unbelievable,” Davis said. “Other than that I love L.A. I live here in the summertime, so this was definitely a place that I’m familiar with... I’m excited to get the season started.”
And while Davis won’t officially commit beyond that, unless the season he’s so excited about goes horribly wrong, it’s probably safe to assume he’ll be here for the next several beyond it, too.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.