Anthony Davis might be shut down for the remainder of the season. That's going to have a significant impact on his ability to earn All-NBA honors and thus activate the Rose Rule clause in his contract extension signed last July. Failing to make an All-NBA team could cost Davis over $24 million on his contract extension. In the first year alone it will cost Davis roughly $4.3 million, an amount the New Orleans Pelicans will immediately reap as potential salary cap room.
$4.3 million less for Anthony Davis is enough to create "max contract" room for the Pelicans without making any trades whatsoever. New Orleans could keep everyone under contract (including the unguaranteed contracts of Toney Douglas, Luke Babbitt, and Bryce Dejean-Jones) if the Pelicans pick seventh or worse in the first round. Now, that "max contract" is the smallest available max contract; players with six years or less NBA experience. Harrison Barnes and Chandler Parsons are two such free agents this summer, both of whom play the Pelicans position of greatest need.
Based on new cap projection of $92M (h/t @ZachLowe_NBA), new max tiers roughly:— Amin Elhassan (@AminESPN) February 16, 2016
0-6 yrs experience: $21.6M
7-9 yrs: $25.9M
10+ yrs: $30.3M
Shutting Anthony Davis down has immediate impact as well. The Pelicans have just three fewer victories than the Minnesota Timberwolves as of Saturday and the young pups could easily pass New Orleans in the last month of the season if Davis is done for the year. Finishing with the fifth worst record instead of sixth (where the Pels currently stand) increases the odds New Orleans jumps into the top three picks from 21.5% to 29.1% on lottery night. (The lottery is May 17th by the way.)
If everything breaks just right the Pelicans could save quite a bit of money and increase their odds of picking in the top three. Picking in the top three could mean Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, or as I discussed in my dream scenario, opening up the chances of trading back in the draft for multiple picks.
More ping pong balls and more salary cap room? That's good for the Pelicans. The other half of this is Anthony Davis and I cannot emphasize this enough. The only way Anthony Davis is shut down for the remainder of the season is if Davis agrees to the plan. The financial ramifications for Davis are too great to not include his voice prominently in the discussion. If the organization attempts to push this scheme too hard on Davis it could alienate the franchise cornerstone. That is an unacceptable outcome.
Will Davis agree? I have no idea. Turning down a shot at $24 million for a couple more lottery combinations and a tiny bit of salary cap space, even if it hypothetically increases his chances of winning, is a lot to ask of a 23 year old NBA superstar.
Let's hope the Pelicans and Davis come to a joint decision, regardless of which direction they choose. The alternative could be disastrous.