It is often said that Anthony Davis breaks the mold.
The New Orleans Pelicans’ superstar forward combines length, athleticism, bounce, shooting touch and court vision into a package rarely displayed on an NBA floor.
And he’s about to be offered the dollars required to remain in New Orleans for the foreseeable future.
At 12:01 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps, sources confirmed to The Advocate, will present Davis with a five-year extension worth nearly $145 million — the maximum allowed by the NBA — in hopes of keeping him with the franchise for the longest possible term.
Davis will be the 16th player over the past decade to receive a “maximum contract” offer a year before his rookie contract expires. All 16 signed an extension of some form to stay with the team that drafted him.
The question: Will Davis break the mold again?
According to data gathered by risk management analyst Jeff Asher, only LeBron James shortened his post-rookie extension to less than four years, taking a three-year offer in Cleveland before leaving as an unrestricted free agent.
Four others accepted four-year deals, and the other 11 signed on for the maximum five-year extension. Those contracts largely paid off.
Only Portland’s Brandon Roy, whose degenerative knee condition put an abrupt end to his career, isn’t considered a star. And only DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love failed to get their original team into the playoffs on the extension.
“We know how much Anthony means,” said new Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, who is not allowed to speak about specifics of the contract offer. “He poses threats in so many ways to an opponent and, believe me, I know from sitting in meetings trying to figure out a way to stop him that, any time you think there’s a way to slow him down, another area of his game suddenly gets better.
“I do think he’s going to continue to improve, and I would think he can add a corner 3-point shot to his game. And we are hoping to do more to get him out in the open floor, where he can really run the court and get some easy baskets that way.”
But, as much as Gentry is envisioning long-term plans for Davis’ future superstardom, there will be some concessions on the Pelicans’ part.
First, league sources told The Advocate that New Orleans will offer Davis a player option on the final year of the deal, which essentially shortens the contract to a four-year stay. On top of that, recent history shows many maximum-contract players on underperforming teams tend to push for a trade before the final non-option year.
Chris Paul infamously pushed his way out New Orleans before the last year on his contract, joining Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Love, all of whom left their franchises before the term of the maximum extension expired.
So that means, even if Davis signs what’s publicized as a five-year extension (and plays the upcoming 2015-16 season on the final year of his rookie contract), he is essentially locked into the Pelicans for four seasons, starting in October.
So the mantra of “win now” that has permeated the Pelicans’ organization for the past two years is an understandable one. The franchise hasn’t kept a first-round draft selection since 2012, choosing to line the roster with young veterans who could grow with Davis and be ready to make the leap into contention with him.
A playoff berth in 2014-15 was the start. Now, starting with free agency this week, the Pelicans are angling to build a roster capable of vaulting to the league’s upper reaches in a hurry.
New Orleans eschewed the opportunity to bring in a second-round pick Thursday, choosing instead to sell the No. 56 selection to the Clippers for $660,000 and add the extra money to the potential pool designated for salaries.
Considering only six roster spots are currently on the books (Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday and Davis), the urgency to build a contender in free agency and lock down Davis’ future in New Orleans are the team’s priorities.
“We really feel like we are ready,” Holiday said two weeks ago. “The things we have been missing are staying healthy and being able to play together. We should at least have most of the team back this year, and I think that’s going to help us more than anyone probably realizes.”