How the Pelicans Plan to Keep Anthony Davis in New Orleans

    After a playoff appearance last season, the New Orleans Pelicans appeared to be heading in the right direction despite losing DeMarcus Cousins in the

    October 3, 2018

    After a playoff appearance last season, the New Orleans Pelicans appeared to be heading in the right direction despite losing DeMarcus Cousins in the offseason. But will the right direction be enough to keep franchise player Anthony Davis in the Big Easy?

    Davis signed with Klutch Sports Group last week, leading to rampant speculation that the star would be leaving New Orleans after the 2019-20 season by opting out of his contract. Suddenly, this year takes on significantly more importance for the Pelicans.

    There was little doubt Davis would be an impact player in the NBA coming out of Kentucky. He averaged 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game while leading the Wildcats to the national title as he scooped up almost every individual honor along the way. He was so dominant that Kentucky won 24 straight games until their SEC Tournament final against Vanderbilt. Davis clearly had all the makings of becoming a two-way force.

    Once he was drafted by New Orleans with the top pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Davis developed his offensive game, leading the Pelicans to the playoffs in his third season. Despite falling to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors, the future looked bright for New Orleans. The Pelicans had found their star.

    New Orleans’ next playoff appearance came during the 2017-18 season. This time, Davis and teammate Jrue Holiday made sure there wouldn’t be a first-round mishap despite the absence of Cousins. Here’s how the two performed in a sweep of the upstart Portland Trail Blazers.

    Anthony Davis Jrue Holiday
    Points Per Game 33.0 27.8
    FG% .576 .568
    Assists Per Game 1.3 6.5
    Rebounds Per Game 11.8 4.0

     

    Considering that Holiday signed a major contract extension in the summer of 2017, the Pelicans will lean on him and Davis moving forward. But ultimately, how New Orleans re-tools the roster around the duo will likely determine Davis’ future with the franchise.

    The Pelicans dealt last season’s first-round pick for Nikola Mirotic, but have their first-round pick for the next two drafts. Getting contributors with those two selections will be critical. Mirotic is on an expiring deal this year, meaning he could be traded for an asset at the deadline if the return is good. And with Julius Randle expected to receive heavy minutes at the power forward spot, Mirotic’s play shouldn’t make or break New Orleans’ season.

    On the perimeter, Davis needs shooters around him to operate at his MVP level. Unfortunately for him, the Pelicans have done a mediocre job in this area. While E’Twaun Moore and Darius Miller both convert above 40 percent of their shots, Solomon Hill and Ian Clark have struggled with inconsistent shooting. In order for New Orleans to play to their potential, Hill and Clark have to turn into reliable players.

    But if Hill does have another rough season, the Pelicans might look to dump his contract to create additional cap space in 2019. As it stands, New Orleans will have approximately $32 million in cap space if it declines Randle’s team option. The Pelicans have the ability to create a max salary slot by moving Hill’s contract, but that could come at the cost of a first-round pick which the team would like keep in order to draft a replacement. New Orleans has at least five expiring contracts this season, giving the team and Davis significant flexibility to shape the roster.

    When healthy, Davis is an MVP candidate. He’s averaged 28 points per game in each of the last two seasons and is regarded as a defensive force. He’s the face of the Pelicans franchise, but his decision to sign with Klutch may have set the clock on his future with New Orleans.

    That being said, if the front office can nail its next two drafts and avoid a major mistake in free agency, New Orleans should be the front-runner to keep Davis in 2020.

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