The NBA’s next “best player in the game” is going to be the first to sign a contract that reflects the league’s new financial era.
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New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis, just seconds into the NBA’s free agent season, agreed to a no-brainer five-year, $145 million contract extension with the team, as first reported by Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. The deal will allow Davis to make 30 percent of the league’s salary cap number, one that will likely hit for right at $90 million in 2016-17, and well over the $100 million mark the following season.
Davis, who averaged over 24 points and 10 rebounds in 2014-15 while leading his Pelicans to the postseason in the loaded Western conference, will reportedly have an opt-out option following the fourth year of the extension (according to ESPN’s Marc Stein), during the 2020 offseason. Davis, by then still only just 27-years old, would be allowed to survey the ever-changing NBA scene in order to determine whether or not sticking with the Pelicans (who haven’t won a championship since entering the NBA as the Charlotte Hornets in 1989) is the best move for that stage of his career.
This is the best move for this point in Davis’ career. Various restricted free agent machinations could have kept him in New Orleans even if he wished to leave, so it was in his best interest to at least be paid as much as possible as soon as possible.
The current version of the Pelicans isn’t exactly a gangbusters outfit, despite the playoff run. New Orleans lost in the first round to the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors, and the team is rife with ball-dominant guards that failed to mesh under former coach Monty Williams. The addition of the highly-regarded Alvin Gentry will hopefully change the team’s tune on both ends, as the team’s financial picture straightens itself out.
— Anthony Davis (@AntDavis23) July 1, 2015
Despite potentially making an average of $29 million a year, Davis’ deal won’t start until the league’s salary cap makes a massive leap during the 2016 offseason. As it stands right now, prior to the Pelicans’ 2015 free agent turn, NOLA will have just under $56 million worth of contracts on the books for 2016-17 in spite of Davis’ massive yearly deal, and two other players (Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans) making eight figures a year.
That number doesn’t factor in the large number of cap holds or any longer deals the Pelicans sign or trade for during this offseason, but it does mean New Orleans will effectively get to wipe the slate clean around Davis that summer, and potentially lure one or two other All-Stars to play alongside someone who might be the league’s best player at that point. Evans and Holiday, already not appearing long for New Orleans despite joining the team just two years ago, will also see their contracts come off the books.
New Orleans general manager Dell Demps hasn’t drawn raves for his work with the team since taking over in 2010, but the team has clearly committed to giving him another chance with Gentry now calling the shots from the sidelines. This current particular experiment – attempting to win now in Davis’ first few years, giving up draft picks for older and more expensive players – hasn’t worked out.
That doesn’t mean things can’t turn around, even with Davis making nearly a third of the ever-rising salary cap. The numbers may look astonishing right now, but by the end of this contract – if he ascends as expected – Anthony Davis will have earned every penny.
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