This is a situation in which the Warriors never really had a choice: to see Klay Thompson walk over a prohibitive cost problem would have been to lose the essence of what’s made Golden State the most dominant team of this decade. They were always going to pay up, and in doing so, they essentially kept him away from the open market and locked in for the duration of his prime years. Thompson, 29, will likely miss the better part of the upcoming season after tearing his ACL in the Finals. But the Warriors understood there was little time for trepidation. With Kevin Durant headed to the Nets, keeping Thompson ensures they’ll remain in the mix atop the league for the foreseeable future. Golden State made an additional move Sunday night to keep itself competitive, landing D'Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade with the Nets and maxing out the All-Star point guard (four years, $117 million). The deal forces them to part with longtime stalwart Andre Iguodala, but adds much-needed star power with Durant departing and Thompson sidelined.
Thompson’s injury obviously ups the risk factor with any massive financial commitment like this. They had to keep him, but on some level it’s tough to dance around that fact. If he loses any tangible effectiveness long-term, the later years of his deal could weigh the franchise down heavily. But Thompson has never relied entirely on his explosiveness, his fabled shooting stroke isn’t going anywhere, and his style of play should age well in theory. Maybe he loses a step defensively, which would not be for nothing. But Golden State had to understand that he’d become irreplaceable to them in so many ways, on and off the court, that there was never any other option but to max him out. Harp on the risk if you want, but when you’re contending in the way the Warriors have been, this is the price of doing business.
Said business, of course, has been built on the partnership of Stephen Curry and Thompson, one that’s now locked in until the summer of 2022, when Curry will be an unrestricted free agent. Those two have amplified one another in historic fashion, and to allow them to split up may have been even more costly than whatever dollar figure the deep-pocketed Warriors would have had to pay. Part of the price here is about identity, not just the fact that Thompson is one of the most prolific jump shooters ever to touch a basketball. Draymond Green will be a free agent in a year, and the Warriors are going to have to pay him too. At some point, attrition is going to factor in as these guys move into their 30s. But when you have a chance to squeeze every possible prime minute out of a historically great core, and keep that group together, well, you do it.
So, there was never any point in wasting time, and Golden State is sending a message by getting it done quickly. Maybe we’ll wonder what it would have looked like to watch Thompson launch threes in a different jersey, or in a more prominent role, even. We’ll probably never know. But thanks to his decision to stay, this team isn’t going anywhere. At least, not anytime soon.