Anthony Davis’ contract will reveal whether or not the Los Angeles Lakers think they can land another superstar.
Down 103-102 with 2.1 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of game two of the Western Conference Finals, Anthony Davis received an inbound pass and drilled a three-pointer to end the game 105-103. The buzzer-beater gave him his first signature playoff moment as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers eventually went on to win the NBA title — the franchise’s 17th — by defeating the Miami Heat in six games.
Moments like that validate Davis’s decision to join the Lakers organization.
Now he is faced with another critical decision. Recently, he declined his $28.7 million player option to become an unrestricted free agent.
Many people close to the team expect him to re-sign with the Lakers. However, we shouldn’t expect a formal announcement before Thanksgiving, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Woj also reported that when Davis makes his free agency decision, he can choose from the Lakers’ four contract scenarios.
Scenario 1: This deal is for three years, $106 million with a player option for the third year. If Davis opts out again in 2022-2023, he would be eligible to sign a contract worth 35% of the Lakers salary cap. The timeline would also align him with LeBron, who is under contract for two more years with the Lakers and has a player option in his final year.
Scenario 2: In this scenario, Davis would sign a two-year contract worth $68 million and with a player option in his second year. Rich Paul, LeBron James’s agent, represents Davis. Paul should encourage his client, Davis, to sign this deal so that he and James can be free agents simultaneously. That kind of cap flexibility enables the Lakers to pursue another marquis superstar in 2021 if they desire.
Scenario 3 and 4: These deals would give Davis the most financial security long term. Here he could resign for four years, $146.7 million, or for five years, $189 million. He certainly figures to be a part of the Lakers’ future, but after James retires, there’s no telling who will be on their roster.
Regardless of what Davis chooses, the Lakers own his “Bird rights,” according to Spotrac. As a result, they can offer the 25-year-old Kentucky product the most money and the best chance to win.
The Lakers currently have two of the best players in the league in their starting lineup. A duo that dynamic is good enough to compete for and even win multiple championships. We all know Father Time is undefeated, and while it may not be knocking on James’s door, it’s certainly in his backyard. The Lakers will be over the salary cap in 2021-2022. Because of that reality, the Lakers must have a succession plan for when James retires.
That secession plan is Giannis Antetokounmpo.
We’ve seen Davis as a solo act with the New Orleans Pelicans. His stats were off the charts, and his talent was undeniable, but his ability to lead a franchise, galvanize his teammates, and make other players better was non-existent. It’s convincingly clear that he needs to be paired with another great player, as is the case with any great player. Nobody wins alone.
Antetokounmpo, 25, is set to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2021. We could see a free agency class like never before if three of the league’s most prominent names in James, Davis, & Antetokounmpo hit the market simultaneously.
The Milwaukee Bucks superstar is at a very pivotal point in his career. Fresh off winning his second consecutive MVP award and first-ever Defensive Player of the Year award, the “Greek Freak” is still looking to win that elusive first championship.
At any minute, the Bucks will offer him a supermax contract worth $228 million. Antetokounmpo will make an additional $83 million in guaranteed money by signing the supermax extension than he would if he signed with another team.
And even still, he shouldn’t accept it. His focus needs to be on winning a championship, not money.
He might think he will face criticism for forming another “Big Three,” or my favorite term, “ring chasing,” but that’s nothing compared to the scrutiny he will face for retiring without a ring.
Just ask Charles Barkley and Karl Malone.
James, Davis, and Antetokounmpo can create something unique in LA if the price is right.