The possibility Anthony Davis stays in a New Orleans Pelicans uniform beyond his current contract has hung over this franchise since he signed a massive extension back in 2015. It is not at all surprising. This is the case for any legitimate superstar playing in a small market; especially when the team is struggling as the Pelicans have throughout AD’s first five seasons. I have been uniquely pessimistic (among Pelican fans and writers) on the chances Davis stays in the New Orleans over the past two years.
And yet, here I am now to tell everyone that they should be optimistic on Davis staying in New Orleans. Why? Circumstances matter, and they have turned dramatically in the Pelicans favor since December.
A new CBA takes effect this summer. Included within is an enormous home court advantage for the Pelicans to retain the services of Anthony Davis. How massive? Davis will be offered roughly $85 million more guaranteed by New Orleans than any other team in the NBA. Even taking off the additional guaranteed years Anthony Davis will earn about $32 million more signing the designated player veteran extension than another team outside the Crescent City can offer for four years.
Before the 2017 NBA CBA was signed the difference between a max player staying with his home team or leaving in free agency was (for NBA superstars) pocket change. Maybe a couple million dollars when comparing contracts of identical length. The primary benefit the home team could add was an additional year guaranteed. Now the Pelicans, and only the Pelicans, can offer Davis a bump from the mid-level tier max (30% of the salary cap) to the real max (35%). If New Orleans trades Davis that hometown benefit is lost irrevocably.
Second, New Orleans has finally paired Davis with an All-Star, and one who plays center no less. Trading for DeMarcus Cousins isn’t just acquiring talent at a bargain basement price. By acquiring Boogie Cousins the Pelicans assured Davis he can play his preferred position (power forward) while being flanked by a supremely talented center who is also very close in age and thus career trajectory. All three pieces of this (position, age, talent) matter significantly in terms of retaining Anthony Davis.
Any other team who would hope to acquire Davis will ask him to make sacrifices compared to staying with DeMarcus Cousins. The only teams that could legitimately offer the comfort of continuing to player power forward alongside a talented and similarly aged (compared to Davis) center are the Minnesota Timberwolves (Karl-Anthony Towns), Denver Nuggets (Nikola Jokic), Utah Jazz (Rudy Gobert), and Philadelphia 76ers (Joel Embiid). That’s not a lineup of franchises even Pelican fans should be concerned about stealing Davis away except maybe Philadelphia. However, in the scenario where the Sixers are good enough to do so (and I’m high on them) they probably are not hunting for a power forward thanks to the presence of Ben Simmons and Dario Saric on their roster.
Money, fit (both position and age), and talent have turned the tables in the Pelicans favor. New Orleans can offer far more money (to reiterate, $32 million over the course of four years) and the comfort of playing his ideal position beside an immensely talented friend to Anthony Davis. No team can match the financial impact. The fit with DeMarcus Cousins will take time but the last five games have certainly provided ample hope.
Anthony Davis and Boogie Cousins together on the floor in the last five games (112 minutes)— The Bird Writes (@thebirdwrites) March 22, 2017
Net: +10.9 pic.twitter.com/gCfPopWfwK
Could Davis leave eventually? Sure. The possibility he does at the first opportunity has gone down significantly in the last six months. Be sure to send the negotiators of the new CBA, Dell Demps, and Vlade Divac a gift basket in appreciation.