In the summer of 2015, following the New Orleans Pelicans’ first appearance in the playoffs during Anthony Davis’ career, he signed a new five-year contract extension worth $127million, at the time the richest contract in NBA history.
Davis had finished an impressive season and was on the verge of becoming a superstar in the league, but the team decided they would move in a different direction despite this success, firing coach Monty Williams.
The franchise hired Alvin Gentry as their new coach following his spell as an assistant in Golden State, but the team could never quite grasp their coach’s new system during the 2015-16 season.
This left Davis, one of the favourites to win MVP prior to the season, suddenly out of the spotlight, as team stumbled to a 30-52 record.
Injuries did, however, play a large part in this, as the Pelicans had a number of players sidelined throughout the course of the season, including a kneecap problem which ended AD’s season and required surgery.
Earlier this week, Dell Demps, general manager of New Orleans announced to fans that Davis will be under no injury restrictions heading into the new season.
This is much-needed good news after a summer which saw two of the franchise’s other key players, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson, leave in free agency, and the announcement that Jrue Holiday will miss the early part of the season to help care for his wife.
New Orleans did get the boost of being able to take Buddy Hield with the number six pick at the NBA Draft in June, and will be looking for early production from their rookie to help fill the void left by players lost this summer.
But Davis may start to see warning signs if there are not clear improvements from his side this year, as he is beginning to reach the point in his career where the focus should be on challenging for the NBA title each season, something that will not happen with his current team.
The fact the franchise went in the wrong direction after a couple of positive seasons should only illustrate that, and problems may soon start to arise if changes are not made.
Just this summer we have seen one NBA superstar, Kevin Durant, opt to leave a team that had three chances to secure a finals place, but that is a different situation to Davis due to his contract extension.
Davis would not be able to walk away from the franchise until 2020, when he becomes a free agent, but he may start wondering if the grass is greener outside New Orleans if things do not start looking up.
If AD becomes unsettled prior to that with no improvement on the horizon, it would not be a shock to see the Pelicans move him on to a contender in a blockbuster trade, but that should be the worst case scenario while they hope to see gradual improvements in the near future.
Davis is a true star of the league who deserves better, the Pelicans are well aware of that.