Anthony Davis has a key decision to make in the coming weeks.
At some point between now and the start of free agency, Davis has to decide whether or not he's going to exercise his $28.8 million player option for the 2020-21 season. If he does exercise it, Davis will be under contract with the Los Angeles Lakers for at least one more season. If he doesn't, he will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, free to sign with any team in the league.
"I have no idea," Davis responded when asked about his future and possible free agency after winning the championship. "I don't know."
"I had a great time in L.A. this first year. 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."
MORE: Ranking the best players in the 2020 free agent class
Under normal circumstances, the possibility of a seven-time All-Star who still has their best years ahead of him becoming an unrestricted free agent would be the talk of the NBA, but these aren't usual circumstances. When Davis requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans last season, it was no secret that the Lakers were his preferred destination. On the heels of him winning a championship in his first season with the Lakers, the expectation is that if Davis does decline his player option for next season, he'll do so with the intention of re-signing with the Lakers on a longer term contract.
"Most in league circles believe that work is largely done - that L.A. is where Davis wanted to be, LeBron James is the teammate he wanted to have, and that the Lakers have done enough to sell him on a future with the franchise," Kyle Goon and Mirjam Swanson of the L.A. Daily News reported several months ago.
What that contract might look like is still unknown because we're still waiting to find out how the league will be impacted financially as a result of the season being suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
What we do know is that the salary cap is expected to be lower next season than originally projected - the NBA reportedly informed teams months before the pandemic that they were projecting next season's cap to be $116 million, up from $109 million this season - but how low remains to be seen.
Fortunately for Davis, the salary cap would have to plummet to $95.8 million for him to make less money next season on a maximum deal than his player option, as detailed by Bryan Toporek of Forbes. With that being highly unlikely - the most likely outcome seems to be that the salary cap will remain flat at $109 million next season - he's almost certainly going to benefit financially from opting out and re-signing with the Lakers.
MORE: What's next for the Lakers?
Assuming he does opt out of his player option, it'll be interesting to see the type of contract Davis signs. He'll have several options depending on what he's looking for, the most likely being one of the following:
- 1+1: Meaning, a two-year contract with the second year being a player option. This would give Davis the option of becoming an unrestricted free agent next offseason, which would align his contract up with that of James. It would put some pressure on the Lakers front office to keep this team together and improve it. Otherwise, the Lakers would run the risk of Davis and/or James leaving in 2021 if either one of them think they have a better chance of competing elsewhere. We saw James sign a number of 1+1 deals in his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
- 2+1: This would give Davis the option of being an unrestricted free agent in 2022, by which point he would have 10 years of service in the NBA. Davis would then be eligible to sign a contract where his starting salary would be worth 35 percent of the salary cap. The most his starting salary will be this offseason is 30 percent of the cap. We saw Kawhi Leonard sign a 2+1 deal with the LA Clippers last offseason, setting him up to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021 when he has 10 years of service under his belt.
- 4+1: The longest contract Davis can sign with the Lakers. While Davis is likely to maximize his career earning by going down the 2+1 route, a 4+1 or five-year contract locks him into max-level money until his early 30s. We saw Stephen Curry sign a five-year contract worth $201 million with the Golden State Warriors in 2017.
There's not really a wrong choice for Davis to make. Either way, he's in line to make max money and be a part of the Lakers for the foreseeable future. It all comes down to what his priorities are - control, the biggest bang for his buck or security.
Davis has some time to figure that part out, but it hinges on him turning down his player option in the coming weeks.
The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.