- With Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry as potential free agents, the Golden State Warriors are gripping for an expensive summer.
With the NBA Finals completed, the 2017 off–season is rapidly approaching for many teams with massive decisions to make. CBA expert Danny Leroux breaks down the major challenges and opportunities for the Golden State Warriors in The Crossover's NBA Summer Preview series.
A year after signing Kevin Durant and shortly after winning their second NBA championship in three years, the Warriors look to have a substantially more stable off-season. Their team will get significantly more expensive with Stephen Curry’s team-friendly extension likely becoming the most lucrative contracts in league history, but the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement help out the newly crowned NBA champions. Curry's raise does not affect their ability to retain Durant or their other free agents. Instead, Durant wields more power due to his unusual free agent situation, likely holding the team’s ability to bring back Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston in his hands.
Here are three key storylines to watch for the Warriors this off-season:
Kevin Durant: After changing the basketball landscape last summer, Durant faces another big decision this time around. Due to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, he can either sign for his full maximum salary ($35.35 million at the current salary cap estimate) or take about $3.5 million less to fit under the non-Bird exception, which would allow the Warriors to stay over the cap and retain their own free agents using Bird rights. Reporting has indicated Durant is willing to make that sacrifice, which would presumably be a one-season pay cut to play with superior teammates.
Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston: These two are the players most affected by Durant’s decision because Golden State will have full Bird rights should they not have to renounce the duo to get under the salary cap. If Durant takes less, the challenge will be balancing out a desire to pay two reliable, aging contributors with some serious financial ramifications. Paying their four All-Stars handsomely means every dollar to supporting players ratchets up an eventually massive luxury tax bill.
Stephen Curry: At this point, it appears to be assured that the two-time MVP will be the first player to agree to the new CBA’s Designated Veteran contract, allowing him to get more than 30% (likely 35%) of the salary cap despite only having eight seasons of NBA experience. At the current $101 million salary cap estimate, Curry’s contract will be worth up to $205 million over five seasons.
Potential Free Agents: Stephen Curry (Unrestricted), Kevin Durant ($27.7m Player Option), Andre Iguodala (Unrestricted), Shaun Livingston (Unrestricted), Zaza Pachulia (Unrestricted), David West (Unrestricted), JaVale McGee (Unrestricted), Ian Clark (Unrestricted), Matt Barnes (Unrestricted) and James Michael McAdoo (Restricted)
Likely Summer of 2017 Cap Space: None
Realistic Maximum Summer of 2017 Cap Space (using $101M estimate): $38.7 million
2017 Draft Assets: No picks. First-rounder owed to Utah to complete the 2013 trade that cleared the cap space for Andre Iguodala
Potential Targets: Whatever Durant decides to do, the Warriors' most significant way to add new talent will be through a Mid-Level exception. Last summer, they used the Room MLE to bring in Pachulia and center figures to be their largest need again. That money will presumably go to the best player willing to take the requisite pay cut, which could be one or more of their group from this season. Golden State will also look to replace Ian Clark, an unrestricted free agent who actually served as Curry’s backup in their rotations. They will presumably look for another catch-and-shoot guard with a minimum contract unless they also cannot retain Livingston. If that is the case, the Warriors could try to use some of the MLE to attract a better all-around point guard to replace both of them.
Pressure Scale: 7. Almost all of the pressure actually falls on Durant, though it would be general manager Bob Myers picking up the pieces if the Finals MVP decides he wants his full maximum salary next season. Assuming ownership is willing to pay the significant luxury tax bill that comes with keeping this team together, Myers will still have to figure out workable contracts for Iguodala and/or Livingston that both sides can agree to. Those veterans may prefer long-term stability but that kind of a commitment brings challenges too since the Warriors will still need to pay Klay Thompson and Draymond Green down the line, meaning an even more prohibitive luxury tax bill if they are still paying their older veteran contributors meaningful salaries.
State of the Franchise: Maintaining. The NBA champions have one of the best collections of talent in league history. As such, their biggest challenge is keeping this group together as best they can. All three of their rotation centers (Pachulia, West and McGee) are unrestricted free agents with only non-Bird rights, so it will be hard for Golden State to keep any one of them without another significant pay cut and it will likely take the Taxpayer Mid-Level exception (worth $5,192,000 this summer) to produce an entire center rotation.
This gives even more leverage to Livingston, as Myers will likely not be able to use much of that MLE on a point guard even if he leaves. That said, Golden State would be able to make a strong pitch to a series of different talents on the premise that they could turn a one-year shot at a title with significant playing time into a larger contract in 2018. That pitch will likely apply to big men as well but it will be fascinating to see who comes out of the woodwork willing to take less money to join the Warriors. Fans of competitive balance will be happy ownership will have to pay substantially more money for largely the same team, but the league needs to be ready for another ludicrously strong team in the Bay Area next season.