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Anthony Davis: More Shots and Upcoming Contract

Battling narratives in this Friday column. Do the Pelicans pass enough? Is AD on his way out of NOLA already?

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Davis has been a popular fellow to write about in the past week. Of course a loss leads to rampant overreactions throughout any fan base and the Pelicans are no different. Immediately following the game Monty Williams had this to say about the performance against Sacramento.

More Shots

On Wednesday Monty was true to his word, stating that Anthony Davis needs to get at least 20 shots a game.

"Anthony (Davis) cannot be in a game and not touch the ball," Williams said after his meeting with players. "We have to have an effort to get him at least 20 shots every night. And that’s on me too. As much as I draw up plays for him, run the offense through him, the guys on the floor has to know it. When they don’t do it, I’ve got to make sure they get him the ball. Because he’s not a selfish player, he’s going to make the right plays. And our guys know that."

"Usually our losses are based on low assists games," Williams said. "We lose chances to win games because we don’t pass the ball the way we should. We start playing one-on-one basketball and that was something we talked about today."

So, losses come from low assist games because the ball is not passed as frequently. Seems like an easy thing to measure. Especially since NBA Stats now tracks passes and Nylon Calculus tracks the number of possessions during a game. Let's take a look!

Possessions Passes AD Touches AD Rebounds AD Shots
Utah 90 249 64 14 23
Sacramento 86 249 56 9 12

Data has a funny way of scrubbing away the biases that come when reacting to wins or losses. You see, the ball was actually passed more frequently per possession against Sacramento than against Utah. The decrease in touches for Davis was due at least equally in part to his lower rebounding (five fewer touches) than the Pelican guards somehow steadfastly refusing to pass him the ball.

Furthermore, it seems a lack of aggressiveness from Davis (0.359 shots per touch against Utah vs. 0.214 shots per touch against Sacramento) may have come into play. Possibly due to either the defense's focus on him or an illness reported after the game.

This attaches quite well to the worn-out narrative in Oklahoma City where the "ball-hogging" Russell Westbrook (who comes back tonight) refuses to pass the ball to Kevin Durant. Monty may be onto something in that it is on him to find ways to get the ball to Anthony Davis. But to compare two games where the ball literally was passed the exact same number of times as times where "the ball moves" and "we play one-on-one" is hilarious and should be rejected out of hand.

Contract Extension

The other point raised this week was AD's pending contract status. Both Nate Duncan for Basketball Insiders and Marc Spears for Yahoo! Sports had pieces up on AD's future in New Orleans. For this part I want to focus on some incorrect information provided by Spears.

Davis will make $7 million in the final year of his rookie contract, but is eligible for a maximum contract extension next summer that could be worth about $90 million over five years. If he is not signed to an extension prior to the start of the 2015-16 season, he will be a restricted free agent in July 2016.

Davis actually could sign a much more lucrative contract in 2016 when the new television contract hits, but isn't sure if he wants to explore free agency.

This is fundamentally incorrect. The contract extension offered to Anthony Davis by the Pelicans will be a maximum offer, for five years and 25% (although not actually 25%) of the salary cap in 2016 with 7.5% raises going forward. Davis, should he start the next two All-Star Games, make two consecutive All-NBA teams, or be named the MVP in either of the next two seasons, would also be eligible for the "Rose Rule" extension of 30%.

The actual amount of the contract, even if agreed upon on July 1st, 2015, will not be set until after the 2016 moratorium period, when the 2016-17 salary cap is defined. Waiting until 2016 would not increase the potential value of his contract. Signing with another team would mean Davis could receive only 4.5% raises. A lower amount than the Pelicans will offer this coming summer.

Salary Cap Games

Duncan in his piece does make an interesting proposition. Should Davis and the Pelicans decide it is in their best interests, they could wait until the 2016 free agency period to sign an agreement. This would create nearly $10 Million, the difference between Davis' max contract value and his salary cap hold.

While this could potentially be risky (if another team could get Davis to sign a lesser contract before the Pelicans spend the cap room) it would not be unprecedented. This fall Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs did not agree to an extension. Leonard will enter free agency*; however, he has also stated he wants to be a "Spur for life". If San Antonio is able to take advantage of Leonard's lower cap hold and Leonard goes with the plan it could work out for the best long term for all parties.

It is important to note here that Houston attempted this ploy with Chandler Parsons and it backfired spectacularly. Of course the different methods of Daryl Morey (treating players as assets) compared to R.C Buford in San Antonio and Dell Demps in New Orleans could factor into just how risky this particular salary cap trick is to pull off. The idea that the Pelicans would not match a contract signed by AD is ludicrous.

Let me leave you today with a quote from Anthony Davis, if you still need talking off the ledge.

"I love it here in New Orleans," Davis said. "Great city. Great atmosphere. …We're getting the fans back and New Orleans back buzzing for the Pelicans, a great organization. I love my team here.

"We're definitely moving in the right direction. I don't know what the future holds, but right now I'm definitely loving the team and the organization."