“He’s the future and the now.” Anthony Davis 5-Year Max Contract Guarantees The Lakers Are Contenders For Years To Come

It seems like a lifetime ago that the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans were negotiating a trade for Anthony Davis. There was always a level of risk for the Lakers in trading for Davis. They were sacrificing their core players, a group they developed after suffering years of unwatchable basketball.

The Lakers gave up Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, the No. 4 selection in last year’s draft (De’Andre Hunter) and two more first-round picks. All of that capital for one guaranteed season of Davis in Los Angeles.

There was real trepidation about going all in on essentially a rental. The Lakers made a similar trade for Dwight Howard in 2012, only to have Howard leave at the peak of his prime a year later for the Rockets.

But all of those critiques, fears and what ifs were silenced after the Lakers won the NBA championship.

After the championship victory it had been a forgone conclusion that Davis was returning. The only thing in question was the structure.

Short-term deals are essentials among superstars who want to maintain maximum flexibility and exert maximum leverage. It was a tactic pioneered by LeBron James in Cleveland and perfected by Kevin Durant in Golden State.

Durant signed a series of two-year deals with the Warriors starting in 2016. Each contract contained a player option in the second season. Durant was a Warrior for three years. He became a free agent after every one of them.

That lack of commitment took its toll on a model franchise. Questions about Durant’s buy-in wormed their way into the locker room and impacted the Warriors’ celebrated chemistry.

Davis is not Durant, but he certainly could have followed his example here. In fact, most expected him to sign a three-year max with a player option in the third year so he could sign a bigger max deal after his 10th season. But Davis is a guy who marches to the beat of his own drum so of course he swerved when everyone stayed straight.

By opting for the 5 year max, Davis’ long-term commitment to the Lakers, like the two-year contract extension James agreed to one day earlier, only further validates their front office and vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka, who keeps piling up victories.

Pelinka has completely revamped the supporting cast that helped the Lakers win the title, adding Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell, former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol and veteran guards Dennis Schröder and Wesley Matthews. This week, he earned the long-term buy-in of his two superstars.

Pelinka who was once called a backstabber by Magic Johnson, is now getting patted on the back for being a genius executive. The Los Angeles Lakers, who swam in the shallow waters of mediocrity for 7 years, are reigning champions with two top 5 players in the league on roster for the foreseeable future. Life is good.

Thursday’s news should ensure that the Lakers will continue to enjoy the best years of Davis’ career while also giving the franchise a bridge to whatever lays beyond this stage of James’ career. LeBron’s new contract expires in 2022-23. Davis will remain under team control for at least one year beyond that. That means the Lakers could find themselves with another slot for a max-level player going into the 2023 season, just in time for the Lakers to pair a new superstar with Davis for more championship runs.

What happened on Thursday may have just ensured the Lakers will remain title contenders for this entire decade.

Trading for Davis was worth the risk. At the time, it was viewed as the Lakers trading their future for Davis. They now know, with certainty, that Davis is their future.

Or, as Jared Dudley put it on Thursday: “He’s the future and he’s the now.”

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