Ever since the Los Angeles Lakers captured their 17th championship in franchise history last weekend, the biggest two questions facing the team have been whether or not Anthony Davis will return when NBA free agency begins, and how long he’ll re-sign for if he does.
While Davis himself said he doesn’t know what he’ll do, his camp recently answered the first question, leaking that Davis plans to opt out of the final year of his contract and then re-sign with the Lakers.
Now, how long will the deal be? We still don’t know for sure, but NBA executives polled by Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times have an idea:
Most NBA executives, who are not authorized to speak publicly on Davis’ situation, believe the seven-time All-Star forward’s best course is to opt out and sign a two-year deal with a player option for the second season.
If he did that, Davis would become a free agent the same time as LeBron James following the 2021-22 season.
The scenario Turner and the executives describe — a two-year deal with a player option in the second year — is commonly known in NBA parlance as a 1+1, and it would not be surprising to see Davis ultimately choose such a deal, and not just because of 2022 free agency.
You see, while James’ deal does technically end in 2022, he does have a player option worth approximately $41 million next offseason (2021). Because of that, Davis taking a 1+1 would allow him to also opt out next year should James choose to. While the Lakers are coming off a title now, there are no guarantees for what James plans to do beyond next season, and Davis may want to have an out just in case.
Still, this is just other executives’ best guesses, not something sourced from Davis or his camp. While those executives likely have intel and have been doing this for long enough to have better hunches than most of us, these are still — at best — educated guesses. And until we see how much the cap drops this summer due to the NBA’s loss of revenue due to the pandemic, it’s impossible to say what makes the most financial sense for Davis with any certainty.
As a refresher, here are the structures Davis is likely looking at if the cap doesn’t fall too precipitously, with some help from salary estimates made by Bobby Marks of ESPN:
- A two-year contract worth $32.7 million in the first year and $35.4 million in the second. The second year — as mentioned above — would likely be a player option. Otherwise known as a 1+1.
- A three-year contract worth $32.7 million in year one, $35.4 million in year two and $38.0 million in year three. The third year of this one would probably be a player option. Also known as a 2+1.
- A five-year contract worth $189.9 million total.
We already covered the benefits of the first one, the benefits of the final one are obvious (the most guaranteed money, right now, locked in). The middle one, though, feels like the most likely to me. It does lock Davis in one year longer than James is guaranteed to be a Laker, but Davis seems to relish the chance to play for this team so much that I have a hard time believing that a worst-case scenario of one season without James would be such a scary possibility.
The other benefit of such a deal is it allows Davis to wait out the NBA’s financial resurgence for two years and re-enter the market as a 10-year veteran, which would make him eligible for a larger max contract worth 35% of the cap (right now he can only get 30% by virtue of having less than 10 years of experience).
What choice Davis will ultimately make will probably be a lot easier to guess at once the NBA and NBPA agree on a timeline for free agency and whether or not they’ll smooth out the effects of the league’s loss of revenue over multiple years rather than seeing the cap take a dive this year — punishing this year’s free agency class — and then (likely) spike the following year, creating a similar situation to the circumstances that allowed the Golden State Warriors to sign Kevin Durant in 2016. I highly doubt almost anyone on either side wants something like that again, but the two parties have to come to an agreement until we can project very much of this.
Until then, anonymous NBA executives are in the same boat as the rest of us: Taking our best guesses at what type of contract Anthony Davis is going to take next. At least there doesn’t appear to be much debate about where he’s taking it however. Some rare good news in 2020 as part of the best week the Lakers have had in a decade.