According to a team release, the Pelicans have exercised the team options on the third years of Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers’ contracts. Under the rookie scale salary structure, Davis and Rivers will command a salary $5.6 million and $2.3 million respectively for their third seasons. This should not come as a surprise. Teams rarely opt out of the third year of rookie scale contracts, however, as the salary incrementally increases, teams will decline fourth year options. Last year, the Pelicans offered an example of this situation. At the beginning of the 2012-13 season the team declined Al-Farouq Aminu’s fourth year option, likely expecting him to underperform relative to the $3.7 million valuation of that season per his contract. By declining Aminu’s option, the Pelicans made him an unrestricted free agent after the 2012-13 season and were prohibited from offering more than $3.7 million, the value of the declined option. Aminu progressed during the 2012-13 season, eventually re-signing with New Orleans on a one year, $3.7 million deal, the maximum offerable amount. Had Aminu’s market value been lower, the Pelicans may have been able to secure a fourth year of Aminu for a value less than that dictated by his fourth year rookie salary scale. Throughout the league, players and teams are coping with similar situations, as Zach Lowe detailed in an excellent piece for Grantland.
Given the confidence that team management seems to have in Rivers, picking up Davis and Rivers’ options was a mere formality. While Davis appears already be approaching his star potential, another poor season from Rivers may jeopardize the fourth year of his contract with the Pelicans.