NBA

Anthony Davis’ New Contract With the Lakers Could Signify How Much Longer LeBron James Plans To Play

Just to clear things up about the title of this article right out of the gate, Anthony Davis has NOT signed a new contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, at least not as of this writing. But let’s not pretend that AD won’t be wearing purple and gold when the new NBA season begins, which will likely be some time in January. He and LeBron James just led the Lakers to the franchise’s first NBA title in a decade, his situation is just way too perfect to leave, and LA can pay him more than anyone else. Anthony Davis isn’t going anywhere.

But there could be more to Anthony Davis’ potential new contract than just his future. If and when he declines his player option for next season and signs a new deal with the Lakers, could the length of that contract signify how much longer LeBron James will play?

How much can the Lakers pay Anthony Davis?

So what options does Anthony Davis have available to him? He currently has a $28.75 million player option for 2020-2021 but the overwhelming expectation is that he’ll be declining that option to become a free agent. But, again, he’s not going anywhere. He made it clear when he first came to the Lakers that all he wants to do is compete for championships and LA obviously gives him the best opportunity to do that, which we all just witnessed.

It’s not yet known what the 2020-2021 salary cap will be but it would have to drop significantly for Davis to opt into the final year of his current contract. What’s more likely is that he’ll decline his option and then re-sign with the Lakers for more money. If the salary cap remains the same as it was this past season, Davis would be able to collect a $32.74 million max salary in 2020-2021.

Under the current cap, the Lakers can offer Davis a five-year deal worth $202 million, easily more than any other team. But he could also sign a two-year deal with an option for a third, which would make him a free agent again in 2022, when he could earn an even bigger deal as he’ll then have 10 years of service time, which would allow him to receive a salary worth 35% of the cap, obviously more than the 30% he can get now.

Anthony Davis says he’s unsure about what will happen with his pending free agency but when this whole thing plays out, he’ll still be with the Lakers.

How many more years does LeBron James have left on his Lakers contract?

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So now that we’ve looked at Anthony Davis’ situation, what about LeBron James? Ahead of the 2018-2019 season, James signed a four-year/$153.3 million contract with the Lakers and has played two years of that contract. It must be noted, however, that the fourth year of that deal is a player option worth just over $41 million, which means that he could also opt out and re-sign. One wouldn’t think he’d be up for the challenge of trying to win a championship with a fourth team at this point in his career but some thought he couldn’t win a title with the Lakers either.

But, at this point, it seems that he’ll finish his career wearing purple and gold. But that could all depend on what Anthony Davis decides to do.

How will Anthony Davis’ decision affect LeBron James’ future?

LeBron James Anthony Davis Lakers
LeBron James and Anthony Davis | Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

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It’s clear that LeBron James and Anthony Davis love playing with one another. Their chemistry on the floor is phenomenal and just watching the two of them celebrate after the Lakers won their 17th NBA title made it obvious that they’ve become quite close. Given the competitive nature of both, plus the fact that they’re easily two of the best players on the planet, it makes all the sense in the world that they would want to stay together to continue competing for championships for as long as possible. But how long will that be? Well, Anthony Davis’ decision this offseason might just answer that question.

If Anthony Davis ends up opting out and signing the five-year max deal, which would expire in the summer of 2025, that could indicate that LeBron James is ready to commit to five more years himself. James would be 40 at the end of such a scenario.

But what seems more likely to happen is that Davis signs that two-year deal with a third-year option, which makes him a free agent in the summer of 2022, the same summer in which James would be a free agent if he chooses to opt into the fourth year of his current contract. As mentioned, LeBron could opt out next summer and come to terms on a new deal, perhaps a two-year deal of his own that would expire in the summer of 2023, which would be the final year of Anthony Davis’ contract if he opts into that third year.

In that scenario, the duo gets three more years together and then Davis still gets to become an unrestricted free agent at the age of 30, which would be right in the middle of what are supposed to be his prime years. It’s scary to think he’s only going to get better, isn’t it?

Whichever scenario plays out, it seems that the decision made by Anthony Davis this offseason likely affects how much longer LeBron James plays in the NBA. But don’t worry, Lakers fans. Whatever choice AD makes, he’ll be in a Lakers uniform for the foreseeable future.

Salary information courtesy of Spotrac