The 2020 NBA free agent class just got some star-power added to it.
Anthony Davis, the 26-year-old six-time All-Star, declined a contract extension from the Los Angeles Lakers, which affirms he will test the free agent market this summer.
The Lakers' extension offer was worth four years and $146 million — the max extension his current team can offer. He can earn more money — five years, $202 million — with a max contract if he signs as an unrestricted free agent.
Declining the extension could very well be just that — a strategic move to sign for more money, which means he may not necessarily leave the Lakers.
However, the fact that Davis will be a free agent at least adds some sort of intrigue and a big name to an otherwise lackluster 2020 free agent class, especially after the star-studded class of 2019.
But could Davis really move on from the Lakers?
It's hard to imagine it could only be a one-year marriage between the two, but who envisioned Kevin Durant signing with the Nets this time last year? It's not quite an apples to apples comparison, but the point is things can change in this league, and rather fast. There are no guarantees, so we explored some potential teams that could pursue free agent Anthony Davis:
Los Angeles Lakers
This is probably the most likely scenario. As mentioned, by declining the extension, Davis could earn an extra year and $52 million by just re-signing with the Lakers as a free agent. Through nearly half a season playing alongside LeBron James, things are going pretty smooth. The Lakers are atop the Western Conference and will likely contend for an NBA Finals title. If he gets the title, does that entice him to stay and build a dynasty, or encourage him to leave and be the centerpiece of a franchise dying for a revival? In an environment where players are judged heavily on rings, it would be unlikely for Davis to bail on what appears to be a pretty solid situation in Los Angeles unless things should turn sour with him and the team, or even James.
If Davis does not return to Los Angeles, the Chicago Bulls seem like they would be in good position to land the All-Star. Davis was born and raised in the Windy City, growing up on the South Side and playing at Perspectives Charter School. The 26-year-old has teased the idea of coming back to play in his hometown multiple times, as recently as November. With no big contracts on the books — with the exception of the one year remaining for Otto Porter Jr. — the Bulls should at least be in consideration to make a play for Davis. The only concern would be finding other elite talent to surround him with and convince him it's the better option.
New York Knicks
If last year’s free agency is any indication, it may be a while before the Knicks can lure top talent to New York, but as long as the team has cap space and money to spend, they cannot be completely ruled out as a possibility for Davis. For starters, the Knicks were among his preferred teams when he requested a trade from New Orleans last winter. Of course, the Knicks have traded Kristaps Porzingis, struck out on Kevin Durant and lost the Zion Williamson lottery. But if Davis wins a title with James in Los Angeles, perhaps he’ll be more willing to explore a new franchise, one where he can be the main attraction. Bringing a title to New York would make Davis an immortal in the sport’s biggest market. The Knicks, like the Bulls, do not currently have the elite talent to entice him, though. Should Davis consider New York an option, it would have to either find players to surround him, or count on Davis to bring in talent with him right away.
There is not really any other clear contender that may try and throw its hat in the ring for Davis. The Boston Celtics were among the teams he was interested in orchestrating a trade to last year, but that would probably take some maneuvering around, plus they need to decide what they want to do with Gordon Hayward, who is under contract another year, and Jaylen Brown, who is a free agent. The Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies should have the cap space to make a big move, but it’s hard to envision a scenario where Davis would play in a small market after he forced his way out of New Orleans. Of course, other options could potentially present itself after the trade deadline where teams shed salary, but currently Davis looks primed for a Los Angeles return unless either the Bulls or Knicks could persuade him otherwise.