Anthony Davis’ $25 Million Dilemma Stems From Unreasonable Expectations

Last offseason, Anthony Davis signed a maximum contract extension with the New Orleans Pelicans, a deal that made sense for both sides. In the agreement, the Pelicans secured their franchise superstar for five more seasons. Davis was coming off the best season of his career, averaging 24.3 points and 10.2 rebounds per 36 minutes, and he certainly looked fit to be the franchise’s centerpiece moving forward. For Davis, the deal made sense, as New Orleans was able to give him more money than any other team in the NBA. Additionally, the team and organization as a whole was seemingly headed in the right direction after coming off a playoff appearance.

However, with Alvin Gentry taking the job as the new head coach for the Pelicans, the ensuing season left a lot to be desired. In the most recent season, the Pelicans dropped to No. 16 in offensive efficiency from No. 9 under Monty Williams in the previous season. On the other end of the floor, New Orleans’ defensive efficiency dropped from No. 22 to No. 28. These two factors culminated in a rough end to the Pelicans’ season, finishing far from the playoffs at 30-52.

The supporting cast around Davis was mostly putrid, with core players like Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and Jrue Holiday each missing extended time for injuries. New Orleans’ flimsy depth was on full display for much of the season, and players like Norris Cole, Dante Cunningham, and Alonzo Gee were forced into step into bigger roles than expected.

Additionally, one expected New Orleans to use Davis in a more creative way offensively under Gentry. Gentry was an assistant for the Golden State Warriors the year before, and looked primed to bring in a system that would catapult the Pelicans’ offensive output. However, Gentry’s high-powered attack never came to fruition, and Davis seemed to hit a wall on that end of the floor. Under Gentry, Davis shot 4.2 percent less from the field than the previous season. Davis’ drop in field goal percentage can largely be attributed to his drop in shots at the rim. According to Basketball-Reference, 35.4 percent of Davis’ shots came from within three feet of the basket in his last season under Williams, a number that fell to 29.9 percent in Gentry’s first season.

Despite the drop in shooting, Alvin Gentry told Pelicans.com that Davis had a positive season, and injuries to several New Orleans players underscored his improvement from the season prior.

However, NBA award voters may not feel the same way. If they do not agree with Gentry’s assessment, Davis’ slightly disappointing season could cost him a hefty chunk of change in the upcoming days, according to Sporting News.

“[Davis] is in jeopardy of not qualifying for the Rose Rule, the NBA salary exception that allows players who meet one of three criteria (MVP, All-Star starter or All-NBA selection) to make more on their second contracts than less-decorated players. Davis now awaits the results of All-NBA voting. If he places on the first, second or third team, his next contract will be worth 30 percent of the record-high salary cap next season. If the voters decide to award other players at forward and center, the 23-year-old could lose up to $24.8 million.”

Ultimately, Davis still produced elite numbers this year, even if the Pelicans’ record does not demonstrate that. However, the seemingly hopeless state of his current team and lofty expectations (both collectively and individually) heading into this past season may cause him to miss out on a whole lot of money when the All-NBA teams are released.

[Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images]