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Anthony Davis has 84 million reasons to avoid NBA free agency and 33 million to stay with New Orleans Pelicans

It’s incredibly unlikely that Davis suits up for another team over the next three years.

NBA: Playoffs-New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

With LeBron James eliminating Jayson Tatum and the Celtics from the 2018 postseason over the weekend, I’m sure many are anxiously awaiting for all the cockeyed rumors and fanatical wish lists to start rolling out of Boston again. One name that should be off Beantown’s radar is Anthony Davis and for two very logical reasons.

The first involves Davis’ recent proclamation for winning. As he told Adrian Wojnarowski back in December, “It’s not about the money. It’s not about having fans. The most important thing to me: winning. That’s what I want to do. And I want to do it here.”

Long story short, New Orleans amassed a high number of victories despite DeMarcus Cousins not appearing in a single contest over the last four months. The Pelicans won 48 regular season games — the third highest mark in the team’s 16-year franchise history — and reached the Western Conference semifinals in most impressive fashion. With Jrue Holiday locked up to a long-term deal and Alvin Gentry deciphering a winning formula, New Orleans figures to stay relevant down the road.

Aided by the team’s turnaround in the win/loss column, Davis received a lot of publicity for NBA awards. The on-going MVP and DPOY discussions are good for any ego, but the most determinative honor for our purposes, an All-NBA selection, has already been made public as 96 out of 100 voters selected Davis to the 2018 First Team. The prestige is nice, but the financial gain is the real news. Having now qualified for the Designated Player Veteran Extension, Davis will be presented the option of signing the league’s richest deal in a little over a year’s time. Should common sense rule the day, the contract extension could keep him in New Orleans through the 2024-25 season, but at the very least, the summer of 2021 — upon signing a DPVE, a player cannot be traded for one calendar year.

For kicks, though, let’s consider the notion that Davis develops a fancy to call home elsewhere instead of committing to the lucrative extension. How much money would he be forced to bypass exactly?

Okay, let’s first take a closer look at Davis’ DPVE which was estimated by Bobby Marks to be in the neighborhood of $230 million dollars based on current salary cap projections. That includes a nice tidy sum of over $52 million in a potential fifth season.

Anthony Davis DPVE Salary
2020-21 $39,700,000
2021-22 $42,876,000
2022-23 $46,052,000
2023-24 $49,228,000
2024-25 $52,404,000
Total $230,260,000

Almost a quarter of a billion dollars for five years of employment — awesome work if you can find it!

So, what if Davis gets traded before his current contract is up? Instead of capitalizing on 35% of the salary cap in 2020-21, the maximum amount any team possessing his Bird Rights could offer would be 30%. Thus, signing a five-year deal with a different team would be worth around $197 million.

Anthony Davis 5-year Bird Rights max elsewhere Salary
2020-21 $34,000,000
2021-22 $36,720,000
2022-23 $39,440,000
2023-24 $42,160,000
2024-25 $44,880,000
Total $197,200,000

While earning $33 million less than he could receive from the Pelicans is a substantial sum, it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that Davis chooses the smaller amount in order to join a new team. However, no player has willingly gone that route since the DPVE was added to the latest edition of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and John Wall all signed DPVE contracts or extensions when they first became eligible.

The assumption is that had DeMarcus Cousins not been traded to the Pelicans, he would have jumped at the chance to sign the DPVE with the Kings in the summer of 2017. Of course, we believe Sacramento was not enamored with paying Boogie the super max figure so he never got the chance to cash in.

Many feel that had Paul George or Gordon Hayward satisfied the stringent requirements, they likely would have re-signed with their former teams. The Utah Jazz never got the opportunity because Hayward failed to earn that pivotal All-NBA award last summer. Meanwhile, George wasn’t selected either; however, he did garner the award in 2015-16. Had he stayed in Indiana for this season and won another one, he would have been eligible to sign a DPVE this summer — hey, it’s not far-fetched as he was awarded a 2017-18 All-NBA Third Team with the OKC Thunder.

Then, we come to option C: Davis patiently waiting for free agency once he’s able to opt out of the final year of his current contract in two year’s time.

Anthony Davis 4-year free agency max Salary
2020-21 $34,000,000
2021-22 $35,700,000
2022-23 $37,400,000
2023-24 $39,100,000
Total $146,200,000

While he would obviously be able to freely select his future team of choice, it would come at an $84 million dollar cost! Not only would Davis be limited to a 30% maximum of the salary cap, he would be capped to 5% raises (instead of 8%) and a four-year contract (instead of five) because of no accompanying Bird Rights.

Davis, who lost out on $24 million on his current contract because he failed to qualify for the Rose Rule and watched Cousins rupture an Achilles, has to be itching for Dell Demps to show him the money and sign on the dotted line with New Orleans for a third time.