Anthony Davis is a top three player in the NBA — and he would be the first to tell you that ranking is too low.
Most people (myself included) would have Kevin Durant and LeBron James ahead of Davis on the list. Why? Because they have done it longer, and their otherworldly gifts and work have lifted their teams to titles. Davis is elite on both ends, but his team has made the playoffs just twice in the past six seasons (something not wholly, or mostly, his fault) and last season was the first time Davis and his Pelicans made it out of the first round of the playoffs.
Davis is tired of waiting around to win and to be the best player — he wants his time to be now, he told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols.
Two big topics came up in the interview, let’s get to the one most of you readers care about first.
There are 29 teams preparing themselves for if the Pelicans make Davis available via a trade, and after that when he would become a free agent (the summer of 2020). This summer, Davis switched agents to Rich Paul, LeBron’s agent, which sparked a lot of rumors. Davis went to the expected place of “I ignore all that stuff” when asked about it.
“I think that’s a big part. Winning definitely helps everything, helps with your legacy, helps [you] be on the top of the list. But going to the playoffs every three years doesn’t help my case. At this point, it’s just about winning for me, being the most dominant player in the league, and whenever that time comes, I have a great team behind me that advise me on some decisions but my focus is on this year…
“You hear it everywhere, it’s funny, how did [the Lakers rumors] even happen? How does that correlate? You know, in my head, I don’t pay attention to it, I keep going back to it but it’s the truth, I look at what I have now and what I can do now and that’s helping my team win. You can’t listen to what somebody else is saying, all the white noise, ‘AD’s going here, AD’s going here,’ — AD’s playing for the Pelicans this year… the rest will take care of itself.”
How did the Lakers’ rumor start? You hired LeBron’s agent. Even before that, right now the Lakers are big game hunting, so their name is going to come up with every free agent superstar, even if it’s not going to happen (*cough, Kevin Durant, cough*).
What I’ve heard from sources is the Pelicans are not trading Davis anytime soon, they are going all in to win with Davis this season and then, next summer, will slap the five-year, $230 million designated player veteran extension in front of him and dare him to say no. You don’t switch agents to Rich Paul if the plan is to automatically sign whatever is put in front of you, but that is A LOT of money to walk away from, and we shouldn’t just assume Davis will. It’s more than $30 million more than Davis can make if he forces a trade to another team and they re-sign him at the max, and if in 2020 he jumps teams as a free agent he leaves $84 million guaranteed on the table. Again, that’s a lot of money, even for rich NBA players. The Pelicans are right not to move to trade him unless next summer Davis says he will not re-sign with them and to trade him while they can. So hit pause on your trade machine efforts for now.
The other key thing out of this interview: Davis wants to be seen as the NBA’s best player. Today.
“Honestly, I see myself as the best player in the league, most dominant player in the league. I just think it’s time for that step, you only get a short window, I don’t want that window to close so I think my time is now.”
Um… LeBron and KD?
“Those two are great players, I bring something unique to the table. My game is different from both of those guys, both ends of the floor. MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate so that’s why I feel like my name should be at the top of the list.”
Maybe he should be. He’s my prediction for MVP this season. He’s right there.
But ultimately, winning is part of the equation. Davis knows that, and he thirsts to win. Which makes the entire first part of this conversation more intriguing.