NBA offseason could hinge on Anthony Davis' free agent decision originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Fresh off winning an NBA title in his first season after being traded to a new team, one of the league's best players now has the option to get out of his contract and enter free agency. Last year it was Kawhi Leonard, this year Anthony Davis could follow the same path.
Well, technically, at least. No one at this point expects Davis to leave the Los Angeles Lakers despite the likelihood he opts out of the $28.8 million he's due next year to seek a new contract. With Leonard, it was less surprising given he was not traded to the team of his choice or closely tied to that team's future by way of his agent.
Davis, though, has a lot of power in his hands at the moment. In fact, the entire NBA offseason could hinge on what he decides to do.
He is not only one of the very best players in the league, he is also just 27 years old. Davis has the chance to be an all-time great and he may just be entering his true prime.
For as much star movement as there is in the NBA, it's not often a player of Davis' caliber hits the open market. If he even flirts with leaving the Lakers and takes meetings with other teams, it would represent a major story.
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You can also add in the fact this is an otherwise down year in free agency. If Davis doesn't explore his options, the top target could be Fred VanVleet, Montrezl Harrell, Gordon Hayward or Danilo Gallinari. Those are good players, but not superstars who would change the landscape of the league.
And that may be the reality of this offseason. After summers that saw LeBron James and Leonard go into free agency, it could be quiet this time around, if Davis takes a deal from Los Angeles.
He certainly has good reason to. Davis has proven very quickly he forms a championship duo with James. He could just ride out James' prime in Los Angeles, collect another ring or two, then be his own man with the Lakers or elsewhere once James' career winds down. This is likely to be the best chance Davis will ever have to collect rings.
Plus, the Leonard route isn't exactly a model success story at this point. The Raptors made it just as far as his Clippers did without him - the second round of the playoffs. And Pascal Siakam made another leap, leading many to wonder if Leonard made the wrong choice leaving. Now he has to drive around Los Angeles seeing Lakers championship billboards for the next few months.
For Davis, there also does not appear to be a logical landing spot like there was with Leonard, whom many predicted would go to the Clippers to be closer to home. Early in the 2019-20 season, a league source with close ties to the Lakers' front office remarked to NBC Sports Washington that the Knicks were seen internally as the biggest threat to lure Davis away. But that was a calendar year ago and before Davis won a championship.
Leaving the Lakers for the Knicks now would be like turning down a room at the Ritz to sleep on a park bench. New York only makes sense if he really wants to leave and views them solely in comparison to other teams with cap room.
There aren't any great choices in that regard, really. In addition to the Knicks, other teams with money include the Hawks, Pistons and Kings. It's hard to see him leaving the Lakers for any of them. Then, there's the Pelicans, and we know that's not happening.
Also, if Davis were interested in building something from the ground up, he could have stayed in New Orleans. Maybe later in his career that becomes more enticing, but it would be surprising if he went in that direction at this point when he has everything already set up in Los Angeles.
There have been too many surprises in recent NBA offseasons to discount the chance of anything happening. But it seems much more likely Davis stays in Los Angeles. and as a result the offseason goes a little quieter than we have come to expect.