Grade the deal: Davis, Pelicans agree to 5-year, $145 million extension
The first hour of NBA's summer free agency period gave New Orleans every reason to celebrate.
Anthony Davis and the Pelicans have agreed to a five-year rookie-contract extension worth an estimated $145 million, according to Yahoo Sports and ESPN.com. The deal, which will kick in for the 2016-17 season, reportedly includes a player option for the fifth and final season.
"NOLA, I am here to stay," Davis wrote on Twitter. "Just getting started. #6 more years."
Davis, 22, averaged 24.3 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.9 blocks in his third season, guiding New Orleans to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
The two-time All-Star and 2015 All-NBA First Team selection led the NBA with a 30.8 Player Efficiency Rating (PER), becoming the youngest player to post a 30+ PER in the last 30 years.
This was an open-and-shut negotiation because Davis is a once-in-a-decade talent and the Pelicans are one of 30 NBA teams that would sacrifice anything to get their hands on the 2012 No. 1 overall pick. There wasn't much to discuss: Davis could have anything he wanted and New Orleans would gladly give it to him as soon as possible.
Davis is on track for a "Rose Rule" extension, which promises him 30% of the Pelicans' salary cap, as long as he makes one of the 2016 All-NBA teams or is selected as a 2016 All-Star starter. Remember, the NBA's salary cap is set to jump from roughly $67 million next season to roughly $90 million in 2016-17 to roughly $108 million in 2017-18, so Davis had every reason to move quickly to guarantee himself a large chunk of that increasing pie.
Given the Pelicans' shaky ownership situation, hit-or-miss fan support, and recent coaching change, Davis's agreement provides a valuable measure of stability. New Orleans has now solved its most important question for at least the next five years, and it can now begin to dream about rising into the ranks of contenders under new coach Alvin Gentry.
It's worth noting that New Orleans didn't score a flawless victory here. Unlike Kevin Durant, who signed a five-year maximum extension with no option years, Davis will have the ability to become an unrestricted free agent in July 2020. Yes, that seems like an awfully long time from now, but every year counts when it comes to keeping a franchise player in town. On the bright side, Davis's deal ensures he will remain in New Orleans one year longer than LeBron James's rookie extension kept him in Cleveland. James, of course, exercised his early termination option in 2010 to leave the Cavaliers for the Heat after playing just three seasons on his second contract.
With no leverage to request a straight five-year extension, the Pelicans will put off sweating over this detail until later. For now, it's champagne and sighs of relief before starting the process of improving Davis's supporting cast.