The Los Angeles Lakers are all-in on Anthony Davis. On Friday, Davis’ agent Rich Paul told ESPN the team and player had agreed to a three-year max contract extension that will tie the 30-year-old to the franchise through 2028. The Lakers just made a big bet on Davis, who has a lengthy injury history.
The new extension is for three years and $186 million. Through 2028 the Lakers now owe Davis more than $270 million and the new three-year addition is the richest in NBA history at a yearly average of $62 million.
There’s no doubting Davis’ talent when he’s on the court. He could creditably argued as the best two-way player in the league when healthy. During the 2020 bubble playoffs, Davis was the best player in the league and led the Lakers to a championship. He showed what he can be when he’s on the court. The problem is, he’s rarely healthy.
During the 2022-23 season, he only played in 56 games. Durin those games, he was spectacular, averaging 25.9 points, a career-high 12.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. He also shot a career-best 56.3 percent from the field and notched a career-high true shooting percentage (62.7). But he simply didn’t play enough games.
During the 2021-22 season, Davis played in 40 of a possible 82 games and during the 2020-21 campaign he played in 36 of 72 games. In his 11-year career, he has only topped 70 games twice. That’s a pretty horrendous track record.
LeBron James holds a $51.4 million contract option for the 2024-25 season, so he’s only guaranteed to be with the Lakers through the 2023-24 season. Los Angeles has to plan for the future, and apparently the franchise is going all-in on Davis as the centerpiece of the franchise.
Now, to be fair, the Lakers have begun to build in some youth around Davis. D’Angelo Russell is still only 27 and was re-signed this offseason. Rui Hachimura and Austin Reaves are both 25 years old and received multi-year extensions, Jarred Vanderbilt is only 24 and with a good season could get locked up. Athletic center Jaxson Hayes is 23 and was signed to a two-year deal to back Davis up. Meanwhile, the franchise has drafted guys like Max Christie (20), Jalen Hood-Schifino (20) and Maxwell Lewis (21) over the past two seasons in an attempt to add some youth and athleticism. Those three might see time developing in the G-League but should be able to help the NBA team soon.
If James does step away from the Lakers in 2024 — or even 2025 — the Lakers should have a decent chunk of change to offer to another star. If Davis can stay healthy and the team’s younger pieces develop, the transition to the post-LeBron Era shouldn’t be too rocky. But Davis actually being on the court is the key.
The Lakers are investing a lot of money in Anthony Davis and have to be praying his injury issues are in the rear-view mirror. That might be a foolish gamble.