Wednesday was supposed to be the day that we finally got an update on Anthony Davis because he and his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, met with the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday to negotiate a contract.
Instead, we were pleasantly surprised with the news that LeBron James has agreed to a two-year. $85 million contract extension that will keep him in the purple and gold through 2023. Again: not what we were expecting, but good news nonetheless.
One can easily come to the conclusion that James signing a contract extension means that Davis is more likely to sign a long-term contract with the Lakers, and while that may end up being the case, Davis still hasn’t decided what he’s going to do yet, according to a report from Brian Windhorst of ESPN on Wednesday:
As for Anthony Davis, sources said, he is still weighing how to structure his contract as he tries to gauge how the salary cap will grow in the next few years. Davis has been looking at spreadsheets trying to best guess how to plan the contracts for the rest of his career beyond this deal he’s soon to sign. His decision-making is independent of LeBron James’, though they share agent Rich Paul, and now that James is locked into an extension.
Davis’ contract is especially interesting now that James is under contract for the 2020-21 season. Before, it was assumed that James would take a pay cut in the event that Giannis Antetokoumpo decided to leave the Milwaukee Bucks for the Lakers in 2021, but now the only way they can pair Antetokoumpo with James and Davis in 2021 is if Davis takes a hefty pay cut.
Even if the Lakers aren’t going to chase Antetokoumpo in 2021, the terms of Davis’s contract will determine how much cap space they’ll have in 2021. Right now, the Lakers only have three players with guaranteed contracts for the 2021-22 season: James, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marc Gasol. Combined, they’ll make roughly $58 million.
That number will rise drastically if Davis signs a max contract for two or more years — or if he has player option for the 2021-22 season that he exercises — but even with a projected annual salary of $35.3 million for Davis, the Lakers can free up to $15 million in cap space. That’s not enough to get you Antetokoumpo, but it could make a sign-and-trade involving Kyle Kuzma more feasible.
The terms of Davis’ next contract were always going to be a point of conversation, but they seem extra consequential now. Then again, as long as James and Davis are under contract with the Lakers, they’ll be okay.