Earlier today, news broke that the Pelicans had shut down star big man Anthony Davis for the rest of the season.
The important question is: Why?
There are obvious reasons, ones that New Orleans will point to as explanations. Davis has been dealing with injuries all season; he’s currently fighting injuries to his shoulder and left knee. Furthermore, the Pelicans are all but eliminated from playoff contention. Why would they keep on playing a hobbled Davis in meaningless games?
However, there might be another, shadier reason that Anthony Davis has been shut down for the rest of the season.
The Brow signed a record-setting five year, $145 million extension last year to keep him in New Orleans through 2021. However, that mammoth amount of money is based off of the Derrick Rose Rule, that allows a fifth year player to earn up to 30% of the salary cap if he meets certain benchmarks: Being voted to start in two All-Star Games, being named to two All-NBA teams, or being named MVP.
The contract was announced as a $145 million deal because it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that, at the very least, Davis would be named to an All-NBA team, thereby meeting the criteria required to qualify under the Derrick Rose Rule. However, if Davis is unable to meet any of the criteria, rather than the extension being worth $145 million, it instead will be worth about $120 million.
Davis, despite all his troubles, still had a very good chance at being named to an All-NBA team. Over sixty-one games, Davis has averaged 24.3-10.3-1.9, along with 1.3 steals and a pair of blocks per game.
Thanks to this shutdown, Tom Benson, owner of the Pelicans, will save about $25 million in salary. Alternatively, the team could use the extra cash, along with the extra $5 million in cap space opened up, to improve the team around Davis.
Davis is said to be set to undergo surgery, but if he believes that he could have played through his injuries, he could potentially file a grievance. Even if the Pelicans win, this shadiness could wreak havoc on their relationship with their franchise player. If Davis is disgruntled, it could turn toxic in the Big Easy, making this a storyline to watch heading into next season.