Let’s get this out of the way: Anthony Davis is not leaving the Lakers in free agency. There is literally nothing that has pointed to such an outcome all year, and after the team won the 2019-20 NBA Finals, there is still no logic to suggest he’d depart Los Angeles after just one season he has so obviously enjoyed.
Still, because this is the 2020 NBA, and free agency has to be wondered about at every possible moment — even as Davis is literally celebrating his first championship — he was asked after the Lakers’ season-ending win about what his plan is for this offseason. Just like he has all year, he says he has “no idea” what he’s going to do yet.
“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,” Davis said. “I’m not 100 percent sure, but that’s why my agent is who he is and we’ll discuss it and figure it out.”
Davis has to say that, because with the NBA’s looming cap uncertainty as the league figures out how much revenue it lost this year from the Daryl Morey/China fiasco and the pandemic, theoretically anything is possible. But there is also literally no reason for him to go, and it’s more likely that this is about him considering what kind of contract he’ll stay under rather than which team he’ll leave for.
Davis has a player option worth $28.8 million for next season that he could opt in to, or he could choose to decline that option and enter free agency. As a player with eight years of service, he would be eligible for a five-year max contract starting at 30% of the cap (this year that would have been worth $32.8 million, moving forward it’s unclear because next year’s cap isn’t set). If he wanted to wait to sign a long-term deal until he had accrued 10 years of service — making him eligible for a five-year deal starting at 35% of the cap — he could re-sign with the Lakers on a two-year deal with a third-year player option (commonly referred to as a 2+1), and then enter free agency later.
If all that sounds complicated, it’s because it is, but essentially Davis — who is 27 years old — has a choice between a longer deal with more financial security, or a shorter deal leading to a bigger payday later, if he stays healthy and productive. Davis’ agency, Klutch Sports, has generally gone for the latter move, but this choice will ultimately be up to Davis.
And if you’re wondering why I’m so certain about him staying, beyond that they just won a title, it has seemed like the locked-in outcome from essentially the moment the Lakers traded for Davis. He and LeBron James’ brotherhood has only continued to grow since then, and the Lakers will reportedly have “no issues” financially with re-signing Davis due to their massive TV contract, even amidst COVID-fueled uncertainty about the NBA’s financial future.
So yeah, Davis may not be explicitly saying he’s re-signing, but the man has said he wants to follow James to “nine more Finals.” Does that sound like someone who’s leaving? Or a just a guy who hasn’t quite figured out which way he’s staying yet?
I’ll let the national media dedicate 900 debate show topics to it tomorrow while we join AD in celebrating this championship.