Why Anthony Davis is likely to opt out and sign two-year deal with Lakers
Lakers star Anthony Davis sat for his postgame interview Sunday with a pair of goggles he had worn from a champagned-filled NBA championship locker room cocked on his head when the inevitable question about his future with the team was raised.
When asked a two-part question of what this offseason might bring for him, Davis quickly responded with: “I don’t know.”
He smiled and shook his head several times before the second part of the question came regarding what the next four or five years of his career might look like now that he has won his first NBA championship.
“Um, the first question, I have no idea,” Davis said about possibly becoming a free agent this different-looking offseason because of the COVID-19 pandemic season that was just concluded with the Lakers defeating the Miami Heat in six games of the NBA Finals near Orlando, Fla.
“The second part. Um, it’s just part of your legacy. To say you’re a champion, not everybody can say that. The next four or five years, you just have to get better and better, keep improving my game and hopefully I can have this feeling again.”
Davis has a number of options this offseason, when he can become a free agent if he opts out of his contract, worth $28.8 million, for next season.
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Most NBA executives, who are not authorized to speak publicly on Davis’ situation, believe the seven-time All-Star forward’s best course is to opt out and sign a two-year deal with the Lakers that includes a player option for the second season.
If he did that, Davis would become a free agent the same time as LeBron James following the 2021-22 season. When that might happen is unknown since the NBA and players’ union has to negotiate when the new 2020-21 season will begin, including the free-agency period.
James will earn $39 million next season and could earn $41 million in ‘21-22 — although he does have a player option for that final season. He also could be eligible for a contract extension once the 2020-21 season starts, but James is not expected to sign one.
Davis also has the option of signing a five-year extension if he opts out. That contract could start at about $40 million per season, but not knowing where the salary cap will be set because of the financial impacts of the pandemic probably means he would not sign a long-term deal.
“I had a great time in L.A. this year,” Davis said, eventually making a reference to his agent, Rich Paul. “This has been nothing but joy, nothing but amazement. Over the next couple of months, we’ll figure it out. I mean, I’m not 100 percent sure, but that’s why my agent is who he is, and we’ll discuss it and figure it out.”
Rob Pelinka, the Lakers’ vice president of basketball operations and general manager, and Kurt Rambis, the team’s senior basketball advisor, have some work to do to help L.A. push forward for back-to-back championships.
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Some players on the roster hold options like Davis, while some who helped them win a championship become free agents.
Center Dwight Howard, who was signed as a free agent last summer when DeMarcus Cousins was injured while training, had a strong season for the Lakers, but he will become a free agent.
Forward Markieff Morris, who signed with the Lakers during the season after getting a buyout from the Detroit Pistons, also is a free agent as are forward Jared Dudley and guards JR Smith and Dion Waiters.
Guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($8.4 million), Avery Bradley ($5 million) and Rajon Rondo ($2.6 million) along with center JaVale McGee ($4.2 million) can opt out of their contracts. Rondo, according to one person familiar with the situation, is likely to decline his option.
Under contract for next season are guards Alex Caruso, Quinn Cook, Danny Green and Talen Horton-Tucker.
The Lakers can also look to improve their team through the draft with their first-round pick, the 28th overall selection. The NBA draft is expected to be Nov. 18 if it’s not delayed again by the pandemic.
When the free-agency period is set for the offseason, they will also have the mid-level exception of about $9.2 million they can use to sign one or more players, the bi-annual exception of about $3.6 million and the veteran’s minimum salary that’s based on years of service.
By putting together a team that won the Lakers their record-tying 17th NBA title, though, Pelinka and Rambis proved they are up to the task.
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