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Why Anthony Davis probably won’t sign extension anywhere

Anthony Davis has requested a trade from the Pelicans, but that doesn't mean they need to make a blockbuster deal right away.

Anthony Davis informed the Pelicans he wouldn’t sign a super-max extension, which projects to be worth about $240 million over five years.

If Davis gets his desired trade from New Orleans, would he sign an extension elsewhere?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka plan to make an aggressive push to acquire Davis before the Feb. 7 deadline, armed with confidence that Davis wants to play for the Lakers and would sign an extension, league sources said.
GM Danny Ainge is undeterred on making a trade for Davis, even without an assurance that he would agree to an extension with the Celtics, league sources said.

Despite Wojnarowski’s reporting, it’s highly unlikely Davis signs an extension anywhere, including his desired Los Angeles. Wojnarowski often conflates an extension with a new contract, but the mechanisms are significantly different.

Davis is set to become a free agent in 2020. Any extension would kick in for the 2020-21 season.

Within six months of getting traded, the largest extension Davis could sign is just one year, $28,447,669.

If he gets dealt then waits for that six-month period to expire, he could sign an extension worth up to $145,652,065 over four years. But because he’d have to wait, the team trading for him wouldn’t immediately get the security of locking him up longer-term. And Davis would already be out of New Orleans, so an extension would no longer be a tool to facilitate his exit. Which mostly defeats the point of an extension.

At the point six months after a trade, Davis could play out the final season of his contract and get far more money. Davis’ max in 2020 free agency projects to be about $205 million over five years. Even if he leaves his prior team in 2020 free agency, his max elsewhere projects to be about $152 million over four years – still more than he could get in an extension sooner.

Here’s how much Davis could earn on a super-max extension (blue), extend-and-trade (gold), extension six months after a trade (red), re-signing in 2020 free agency (purple) and leaving his team in 2020 free agency (green). The non-super-max extension salaries are calculated. The other salaries are based on the projected 2020-21 salary cap.



Obviously, money doesn’t mean everything to Davis. If it did, he’d sign the super-max extension with the Pelicans.

But once he gets to a new team, why not make as much money as possible? Whether or not he lands on a team he wants to re-sign with, it’s still financially prudent to reject an extension in favor of signing a fresh contract in free agency.

It’s technically possible for Davis to renegotiate his 2019-20 salary after getting traded. If he does, an extension could become viable. But a team must use cap space for a renegotiation. Will the Lakers really commit cap space to give Davis a preemptive raise in a summer they’re chasing a third star? It seems he wants to stay in Los Angeles and that wouldn’t be necessary. The Celtics probably wouldn’t have cap space, anyway. A renegotiation-and-extension seems farfetched, but that’s still the most-realistic way Davis signs an extension.

Most likely, whichever team trades for Davis must keep him into the 2020 offseason and hope he re-signs. It’s tough to see any team getting the benefit of an extension to lock him up sooner.