Anthony Davis and his New Orleans Pelicans just concluded their best finish to the season in a decade.
The former Kentucky Wildcats star led his team to a sweep of the higher-seeded Portland Trailblazers in the first round before meeting the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors in the second round. Davis was phenomenal, but it still wasn’t enough to advance to the Conference Finals. While his team defied expectations, it may be time for the MVP candidate and the Pelicans to cut ties.
It’s no secret Davis has just now entered the prime of his career. He’s coming off his sixth season of which he had career highs in points, assists and 3-point percentage and just barely missed that mark in rebounds and field goal percentage. He also led the Association in blocked shots per game.
At just 25 years old, he has six or seven more years of dominance in him. While he’s been great in New Orleans, they don’t look to be in shape to contend for a championship any time soon.
Jrue Holiday is coming off of a fantastic season but hasn’t proved in the past that he can sustain consistency. Rajon Rondo is on the back end of his career and fellow All-NBA big man Demarcus Cousins is coming off of a ruptured achilles.
That’s not to mention New Orleans is in the worst free agent market and is short on depth with multiple overpaid contracts.
Davis has expressed loyalty to his club over the last year or so, but that doesn’t mean he should be. The Pelicans did go all-in to grab Boogie Cousins for one and a half seasons but the first ended short of the postseason and the second ended without him on the floor.
With Davis now eligible for a monster contract, he’ll have to decide between being the richest player in NBA history or having a legitimate chance at winning a NBA title. Considering he’d make a substantial amount of money from any team he signed with, title-chasing seems like a no-brainer.
Add in he could be one of just a handful of stars to lead a team to both an NCAA and NBA championship makes it that much sweeter.
Davis has three more seasons on his current contract that are more than a bargain. His $25, $27 and $28 million cap hits for those three seasons will be below max-value. For one of the three or four irreplaceable players in the league, Davis is nearly untouchable.
It’s also time for New Orleans to face the reality of no matter how great Davis is, he can’t carry this type of team through four rounds of hostile competition. While having one of the best players draws fans that lead to high revenue, saving the franchise from disaster in the post-Davis era is the right move.
Davis would certainly retrieve monster offers on the trade market. Considering the poor market and brutal draft history, New Orleans may indeed need to explore moving their star to capitalize on his peak value.
Coming off his best season as a pro, with multiple teams with multiple young assets, the time to deal Davis will never be better.
It’s hard to tell what Davis would want here, though he’d obviously have no say in his fate before his contract expires. The Pelicans could wait one or two more years to trade Davis, but as we saw with the Paul George deal, stars with just a season left on their current deal don’t return monster value.
The worst-case scenario would be for the Pelicans to deny reality and hold on to Davis. If they can’t get over the second-round hump, he could leave in three years and the franchise could face a similar time as the Post-Steve Nash Suns and Post-Dwight Howard Magic.
Only time will tell, but don’t be surprised if the decision to move Davis comes sooner than later.