Anthony Davis Rumors: Supermax Contract Won't Factor into Free-Agency Decision

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2018

New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, center, during the second quarter of a basketball game in Boston, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. The Celtics defeated the Pelicans 113-100. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Charles Krupa/Associated Press

The major advantage the New Orleans Pelicans have always held over other NBA teams lusting after Anthony Davis is the ability to offer him a supermax contract extension this upcoming summer.

But according to Sam Amick of The Athletic, Davis "does not see the extra $87.3 million that New Orleans is expected to offer in a five-year, $239.5 million supermax extension this summer as a factor in his eventual decision."

The general timeline for Davis has always seemed likely to be as follows: He would remain on the Pelicans until this summer, when the team would offer him every last penny available to them. If Davis signed the extension, his future would be in New Orleans.

If he didn't sign, however, the Pelicans would likely trade him rather than risk losing him for nothing in the summer of 2020. That would also allow Davis to potentially sign a supermax deal with his new team. Teams believing Davis would be willing to sign a long-term extension to stay with them would offer bigger packages to the Pelicans than teams where Davis staying would be unlikely.

In this scenario, the Boston Celtics—long rumored to covet Davis—would have the most assets to move. If Davis were willing to be a Celtic for the long haul, Boston would give up the farm to land him. 

If the Los Angeles Lakers are going to land Davis, however, their best shot is to do so before the trade deadline this year. Why? The Celtics can't trade for him with Kyrie Irving on the roster, since teams are allowed to only have one player on a "Rose Rule" contract acquired via a trade. Irving is one such player, and Davis is on the same contract. 

So while Irving remains in Boston on his current contract, which he can opt out of this summer, the Celtics cannot trade for Davis. The Lakers have no such restrictions, however, and could try to worm their way into a Davis trade this season, as Amick noted:

"But with the Feb. 7 trade deadline nearing and LeBron sending clear signs that he wants to partner with Davis, there is a strong sense that now is the time for the Lakers to attempt to make this move.

"Here's why: While the Pelicans continue to say they won't trade him, a strong offer might force an early conversation between Davis and team officials about his eventual intentions. It's the absence of clarity on that front, in essence, that is buoying New Orleans' hope that he might stay. What's more, the Lakers have a competitive edge over Davis' other known suitor, the Boston Celtics, that is getting smaller by the day."

The Lakers can make the Pelicans a strong offer, with young players like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart. But they can't match what the Celtics would be able to offer from the standpoint of both young talent—if Jayson Tatum is on the table, nobody can offer what Boston can, but even if he's untouchable, it still has a player like Jaylen Brown to feature in a deal—and future draft picks.

That advantage in assets doesn't mean that Davis is inevitably Boston bound. Perhaps the Pelicans add another superstar in a trade this season and entice him to stay. Maybe Davis isn't willing to commit to a long-term extension with the Celtics, altering what they're willing to give up for him, but he's willing to do so for the Lakers, and they offer the Pelicans a more attractive trade package. 

But if Davis has already made it clear he'd sign in LA—and remember, he's represented by Klutch Sports and James' business partner, Rich Paul, so the Lakers will know if Davis wants to head West—the Lakers would be wise to pursue Davis now. Wait until the summer, and the Pelicans could leverage any Boston offers to squeeze every last possible asset out of the Lakers.

It seems unlikely Davis will go anywhere until the summer, of course. But for the Lakers, a full-court press to land him this season makes complete sense.