The Los Angeles Lakers continued their tradition of taking care of stars Friday, signing Anthony Davis to a three-year, $186 million max extension. The Brow will now be in purple and gold through 2028, and in the process was rewarded with the richest annual extension in NBA history at $62 million per year. There’s an obvious takeaway here, and at the risk of sounding like Kendrick Perkins, the pressure is on AD to perform like a top-five player.
Or is it? Jaylen Brown set the record for NBA deals last month, and there are no misconceptions — at least outside of Boston — about his standing among the top players in the league (and on his team). Davis’ deal doesn’t mean much other than ensuring the frustration that is rooting for AD will continue for Lakers’ fans.
The new financial freedom under the updated CBA and salary cap may turn every All-Star superstar into Mr. Monopoly, but won’t fundamentally change who they are as players. When healthy, Davis can be a cornerstone of a championship or conference finals team, and the two times in four years he’s been healthy, it’s been great. The other couple of seasons, LA either didn’t make the playoffs or didn’t make it past the first round.
There will be pressure on Davis, but there are always expectations of greatness for the Lakers, and an increase in money won’t significantly change that. He delivered a ring, and missteps like bad contracts don’t seem to be the death knell for LA like they are for other franchises.
Last year, LA was a seven seed after getting out of the gates like a Shetland pony at the Kentucky Derby. (People do love L’il Sebastian though.) The team stabilized over the duration of the year, especially after Davis returned from injury at the 50-game mark.
Whenever LeBron James retires or is clearly no longer LeBron James, this team will default to AD, who at 30 years old hasn’t played more than 62 regular season games in a Lakers uniform, or in any of his past five campaigns. In 2023, he logged 56, the most of the past three years.
That number needs to bump up to the mid-60s if the Lakers are going to capitalize on the last vestiges of James’ career. Seeding matters for older teams. I’m not saying LA needs to expend all its energy chasing the one seed, but home court in the first and second rounds goes a long way in staying fresh.
Whether Davis is deferring to LeBron, or can’t wrest control of the offense, there have only been glimmers of the guy we saw in New Orleans who logged 30 and 12 over his two playoffs as a Pelican. During the conference finals run this past season, when AD was somewhat healthy, he managed just 22 points per outing.
That’s a little misleading, because he grabbed 14 rebounds a game, and did have outbursts, yet the lack of consistency was alarming. Davis eclipsed 30 points four times during the 2023 postseason, and in every subsequent game, failed to break 20. In two instances, there was a 19-point drop-off — 31 then 12, 30 then 11. (There was a 22-point disparity in another, but following up 40 with 18 isn’t going to get you knocked in my book.)
In all likelihood, Anthony Davis, MVP candidate, is a pipedream. This is what the Lakers do though. They take care of their stars, with the knowledge that if it doesn’t pan out, big names will still want to come there no matter how abysmal the situation. Like the many beautiful inhabitants who make up LA, the Lakers always manage to land on their feet.