After romping the Cleveland Cavaliers in four games, the Golden State Warriors are in the midst of a dynasty worth preserving at all costs. Those costs will become increasingly expensive, however, as the team’s All Stars sign new contracts and extensions in the coming years.
The 2018-19 season will be the last one before Golden State’s tax bill skyrockets into unprecedented territory. The Warriors will pay the repeater tax and the luxury tax next season, Durant will command close to $30 million annually, and Thompson and Green are due for extensions over the next two years. The titles will keep pouring into the Bay, but so too will some substantial tax bills.
Biggest Question:Will Klay Thompson agree to an extension?
Thompson is under contract through the 2019 season, but is currently eligible for a four-year extension (in addition to the remaining year on his current deal). The most Thompson could sign for is $102 million over those four years. If he turns down the extension and chooses to wait until free agency next summer, Thompson could sign a five-year, $188 million contract, and if he makes an All-NBA team in 2019, he would qualify for the five-year, $219 million deal. The Warriors, however, might not be willing or able to make that sort of offer with Curry and Durant both on max (or close to max) deals and Green extension-eligible in 2019.
Thompson has given every indication that he intends to stay with the Warriors, and has even hinted at taking a discount to do so. (On the off chance that another team lures him away in the summer of 2019, Thompson could sign for up to $139 million over four years.) Convincing him to take less than the max would be a significant win for Golden State, who would save millions in tax bills by signing Thompson at a lower figure.
Though probably the most expendable of the Warriors’ four All Stars, Thompson still serves a crucial function in their system. Few wings in the NBA defend on the perimeter as staunchly, even fewer shoot the ball as accurately, and perhaps none combine the two skills as smoothly as Thompson. He may be a beneficiary of circumstance, but only insofar as not being asked to create as much as his All-Star teammates. A player that requires practically no maintenance or catering, his skill set is adaptable to all styles and schemes, and he fits seamlessly into Golden State’s offense. He’s limited, but only in areas that can be masked by the talent around him. That player, his importance to his team’s culture, and the peace of mind that comes with having him is worth whatever amount the Warriors will have to pony up to keep him.
Free Agents: Kevin Durant (player option), Nick Young (UFA), David West (UFA), Zaza Pachulia (UFA), JaVale McGee (UFA), Kevon Looney (UFA), Patrick McCaw (RFA)
The flaws of an imbalanced roster were brought to light when Andre Iguodala missed six games with a leg injury, thus exposing the lack of depth Golden State had on the wing. The Warriors had far too many centers than could be useful in a playoff setting, and as a result, were forced into playing less flexible and less capable lineups that sacrificed shooting, playmaking, defense, or some combination of the three. At age 37, West’s effectiveness waxes and wanes. McGee was in and out of the rotation all season and proved too untrustworthy for a consistent place in Steve Kerr’s rotation. Pachulia played fewer than 13 minutes per game after the All-Star break and hardly at all in the postseason.
A qualified two-way wing would have filled Iguodala’s void in a less limiting way, and having four of its big men simultaneously enter free agency offers Golden State an opportunity to reconfigure the middle and fringes of its rotation. Jordan Bell may already be the team’s best option at the five and projects as a long-term fixture in the starting lineup. The Warriors declined Looney’s fourth-year team option, but could negotiate a new deal to bring him back.
McCaw might have been a useful stopgap in Iguodala’s place were it not for a back injury that cost him the final six games of the regular season and most of the playoffs. But like much of McCaw’s value this season, that possibility remains theoretical. The 22-year-old appeared in only 57 games this year and struggled to play consistently or confidently while on the floor. While that may raise questions regarding his long-term fit on the team, it will also likely keep the Warriors from having to shell out a pricy new contract this summer—unless another team takes a leap of faith and offers McCaw a hefty deal.
Durant appears to be a safe bet to re-sign, the only questions being for how much and how long. After taking a team-friendly pay cut last summer, Durant could lock in for more money over a longer period of time this July. Young’s future is a bit murkier. After a disappointing season, he probably isn’t worth the taxpayer midlevel exception the Warriors used on him last summer, and barring a willingness to play for something closer to the minimum, there may not be enough room on Golden State’s books for Swaggy P.
Draft Pick: 1st round, 28th overall
By now, the rest of the league should be warier of selling its second-round picks to the Warriors. This year, however, Golden State has its own first-rounder, which should be all the ammunition it needs in the draft. An ideal fit would be an experienced wing that provides immediate value while fitting in with the McCaw/Bell timeline. The front office could also shore up the backup point guard situation with a defensive-minded veteran like Khyri Thomas or Jevon Carter. Either way, bet on Golden State to draft with both a taste for the modern NBA and an eye toward the future.
Team Needs/Potential Targets: Shooting off the bench, fewer big men, backup point guard
Despite employing three of the greatest shooters of all time, the Warriors have fewer capable 3-point shooters than their reputation may suggest. No one in their slew of bigs is a consistent threat from deep; Shaun Livingston shoots almost entirely from the mid-range; Iguodala becomes more hesitant to launch by the season; Draymond Green is a willing chucker, but not always an effective one. Especially if Young, whose value rested almost entirely on his ability to can triples, doesn’t return, nearly all of Golden State’s shooting will be concentrated into Curry, Thompson, and Durant. An experienced sniper like Wayne Ellington or J.J. Redick would serve a useful role off the bench when two or more of the Warriors’ long-range threats sit. A bucket-getter in the mold of Jamal Crawford or Tyreke Evans could also provide needed shot creation on bench units.
These problems are trivial when taken in the context of the rest of the league, and all four candidates might be out of Golden State’s price range. But acquisitions and adjustments on the margins of the roster are what separate teams at the highest level of the NBA. If any part of this team is due for renovation, it’s in those places.