Anthony Davis and Gordon Hayward have lucrative decisions to make when the NBA offseason gets underway.
Davis and Hayward have player options for the 2020-21 campaign, and it seems likely they will return to their respective teams for at least one more season. The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics stars can collect on large paydays while avoiding a potentially limited free-agent market from a salary-cap perspective.
The 2020 offseason is not expected to be the feeding frenzy that we saw in 2019, and it could set up a more intriguing free-agent process in 2021.
NBA Free-Agency Predictions
If Davis opts in for the 2020-21 campaign, he will make $28.7 million on the back end of the five-year deal he signed when he was with the New Orleans Pelicans.
The 27-year-old has benefited from his partnership with LeBron James, and they have placed the Lakers on top of the Western Conference.
Davis is averaging more than 25 points per game and shooting better than 50 percent from the field for the fourth consecutive season. The only knock on his first season in Los Angeles is the drop in rebounds per game from 12 to 9.4, but that is still a significant amount for a paint player.
Even in the competitive Western Conference, Davis is in position to have a few runs at a championship alongside James. A long-term relationship would benefit both the player and the franchise, which is in search of its first title since 2010.
According to Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register, re-signing Davis is the "top priority" for the Lakers this offseason:
"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."
The Lakers and Davis have a few options to keep him in southern California for the long term. The first is for Davis to opt in for next season and then discuss a long-term contract before he hits free agency. He could also hit the free-agent market in 2021 to attempt to drive up his price. Or they could agree on an extension before Davis has a chance to make a decision.
Opting in for next season and then agreeing to a long-term deal makes the most sense because it would allow the Lakers to save a bit of money before handing out a second monster deal to a superstar.
Prediction: Davis opts in for next season and then agrees to long-term deal.
Hayward has 34 million reasons to remain in Boston for at least one more season.
The 30-year-old is scheduled to make $34.1 million if he opts in for the 2020-21 campaign. That would be an increase from the $32.7 million he is making this season. Since the free-agent market is not expected to be as robust as it was last summer from a financial perspective, Hayward appears to have an easy decision to make.
Hayward may not want to break up the momentum he has gained with the Celtics this season, as he has improved in almost every statistical category from a year ago.
He increased his scoring total from 11.5 to 17.3 points per game and has a career best 50.2 field-goal percentage.
Although the Milwaukee Bucks reside at the top of the Eastern Conference, the Celtics are still in good position to challenge for a NBA Finals berth when the season resumes.
Boston presents Hayward with the best chance to win and earn a large sum for the 2020-21 season, so opting in seems like the smart choice.
Prediction: Hayward opts in for the 2020-21 season.
If Davis, Hayward and others with player options stay put, Brandon Ingram's free agency could be the most intriguing this summer.
Ingram is a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer of $9.4 million linked to his contract. However, the 22-year-old could walk away in the summer as a richer player because of his breakout season with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Ingram is averaging 24.3 points per game, which is a six-point leap from his final season with the Lakers. He also improved his rebounds, assists and steals per game and is shooting three-pointers at the highest rate of his career.
Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor reported the Pelicans are expected to match all offer sheets that come in for Ingram. But New Orleans' commitment to keeping Ingram could be tested if a few teams think they can pry him away by offering larger deals.
Given his increased stature as a go-to player, there is a chance Ingram ends up with a larger deal than what his qualifying offer sits at. If that occurs, a bidding war could break out for Ingram, which is something that will not happen for players with easier decisions, like Davis and Hayward.
Prediction: New Orleans matches every offer and keeps Ingram.