NBA players have long been interested in sunshine. The Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, in two of the most hospitable climates in the league, are always considered free agent destinations. So too are locations where an NBA star or two is already present. Come July 2016 the New Orleans Pelicans will join these franchises as a premier destination. Everyone can thank Anthony Davis.
Stars do not just want to go to great weather, they also want to join up with other superstars. This fundamentally increases the probability of competing for a championship. See how the Big Three in Miami was formed, or even how Dwight Howard fled the Lakers for James Harden, Chandler Parsons, and the Houston Rockets. The NBA, more so than any other, is a players' league.
Anthony Davis agreed to a maximum extension immediately last night. The Pelicans offered him everything they could. Five years, the full 30%, and a player option for the fifth year. His contract will run through 2021 with the possibility of him opting out in 2020. The timing of this is critical. Next summer is when the salary cap explodes and every team will have room for a max contract. New Orleans, barring a stunning set of moves in the coming days, will also. Unlike those teams offering the max, the Pelicans will also offer the chance to pair with Anthony Davis.
That's not all!
The Pelicans are offering the chance to pair with AD at the very beginning of his big contract. The longest contract available to free agents switching teams is four years, those contracts will expire in 2020. The risk in joining Davis is practically zero. He won't be gone in a year or two. His game is completely malleable to fit with any other type of player.
So if you're Kevin Durant, the Pelicans make a lot of sense. Make no mistake that Durant is the white whale in the 2016 free agent class. The Oklahoma City Thunder will sell familiarity. Russell Westbrook will be an unrestricted free agent the following summer. The Washington Wizards will sell home. Their 2016 roster (as of now) will be John Wall, Marcin Gortat, and the probable re-signing of Bradley Beal.
New Orleans offers (again, as of now) Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, and Quincy Pondexter. Alvin Gentry's offense is going to be fun. The city of New Orleans has long been a favorite destination of players and media types alike. Look no further than the reactions when NOLA hosted the NBA All-Star Game or the Super Bowl.
All of that comes along with a low media commitment; the lights don't shine brightly here like they do in Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C., or Chicago. The Pelicans "beat" consists of two guys from the New Orleans Advocate (Darrell Williams and Scott Kushner) and two guys from the Times-Picayune (John Reid and Jimmy Smith). Local television stations pay some attention to basketball but remain in football 24/7 mode.
Team USA will be conducting a mini-camp this August in preparation for the 2016 Olympics. Anthony Davis will likely attend. Could AD be recruiting for the Pelicans during that time? In addition to Durant prospective 2016 free agents Chandler Parsons, Kevin Love (if he signs a 1+1), Dwight Howard, DeMar DeRozan, Damian Lillard (restricted), and Andre Drummond (restricted) could be in attendance.
None of this makes it a lock for the Pelicans to land Durant, or any other big name free agent. Chances the Pelicans make a big splash next summer, thanks to AD's extension, just increased dramatically.