The Los Angeles Lakers and their young star, Anthony Davis, look to take their relationship to the next level.
When they acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans after a lengthy public courtship, the Lakers justly celebrated a mission accomplished. Having acquired LeBron James, they paired him with another superstar just entering his athletic prime. At a stroke, they had made the team a Finals contender again.
Yet, given the probability that Davis uses his player option and becomes a free agent after this season. The Lakers, as well as Davis’ agent (and burgeoning global mastermind) Rich Paul, have had one eye on the contract negotiation to follow. While Davis had forced his way to the Lakers specifically and was widely expected to re-sign with the team, seeing Kawhi Leonard leave Toronto in free agency after winning a title has been enough to stoke furious speculation about Davis’ upcoming off-season throughout the year.
The most likely course has always been that Davis would opt-out to become a free agent, then sign a two-year deal that made him more money than his current contract. In two years, his 10th year in the league makes him eligible for a veteran maximum deal. Davis would then secure a huge contract.
The probability of sudden salary cap reductions following the massive loss of revenue from the coronavirus shutdown complicates matters. Most of the Lakers’ current salary is on contract through next year, and the Lakers may not be able to afford the deal Davis and his agent was expected to sign this summer.
If the salary cap cuts are steep enough, it may end up being more profitable for Davis to decline his player option and extend his current contract one more year. Ideally negotiating when the virus shutdowns have been safely lifted and the league revenue situation is clearer.
One thing that seems clear is that, regardless of the salary situation, the Lakers remain the runaway favorites to secure Davis’ services for the long haul. They have a championship-caliber roster, future space to secure another max player as James ages. Not to mention the well known climatic and financial advantages provided by the city of Los Angeles.
Furthermore, the coming cap crunch will be felt across the league, crippling the ability of other teams to offer a contract sufficient to lure Davis away from his chosen destination.
Anyone living in our current timeline would be a fool to dismiss the unlikely, but it would take a significant unforeseen event to prevent Davis from returning. That makes the Lakers’ plan for the next five years to first secure a long-term star to pair with Davis through his prime, then fill out the roster with cheap but high-value contracts.
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