The move saved the Warriors $4 million in cap space, allowing them to sign a restricted free agent, DeAndre Jordan, to an offer sheet and make a run at another free-agent center in Tyson Chandler. Still, if not for Bell's off-the-court issues, he probably would have remained.
Eighteen months later, the Golden State Warriors are in danger of losing at least one key player due to salary cap concerns, as well as paying some hefty luxury tax fees.
Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson—who each played less than six minutes per game in 10 combined appearances during the playoffs—are set to make a total of $20 million next season. Had the Warriors allowed Charlie Bell's contract to expire in the summer of 2012, they could amnesty Jefferson, have $11 million worth of breathing room, and bring their entire roster back and then some.
Instead, the Warriors have nearly $67 million guaranteed going to 10 players next season. Assuming Brandon Rush accepts his $4 million player option (he won't make that much in free agency after tearing his second ACL), Golden State will have nearly $71 million committed, putting it just over the luxury tax.
It is now up to current GM Bob Myers and the rest of the front office to make the best of the team's past financial miscues.
Golden State vs. Luxury Tax
The Warriors front office anticipated the luxury tax problem long ago. As a result, Golden State is ready to handle it.
At the trade deadline this past February, Golden State managed to move two players—Jeremy Tyler and Charles Jenkins—for future second-round draft picks. This allowed Golden State to stay below the $70.3 million tax threshold.
While they will not be able to remain below the threshold this summer, avoiding the luxury tax during this past season will make the Warriors a first-time offender during this coming season. This will start their clock on the new CBA's repeater tax, which further penalizes teams that exceed the luxury tax three times in four seasons.
Warriors and the Mid-Level Exception
Not only did Golden State's trades of Tyler and Jenkins keep it below the luxury tax threshold, but they also allowed the team a larger MLE figure.
The MLE allows all teams to sign a free agent for a specific price, even if that team is over the salary cap. However, the MLE is only $3 million for teams that were taxpayers in the previous season, while it is $5 million for teams that were not.
What does this mean? In short, it gives the Warriors an outside chance at keeping both Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry and a very good chance at retaining at least one of them.
Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack vs. Carl Landry
They've only started a combined six games during their one (regular) season in Oakland, but it would not be hyperbolic to call both Jack and Landry instant Bay Area sports heroes. They are largely responsible for the Golden State Warriors' quick ascension from mediocrity to near-elite status.
However, their hero status does not mean they'll be lifelong Warriors. On the contrary, at least one of them may never play for Golden State again.
Landry has a $4 million player option for next season, the exact same figure Brandon Rush can and almost definitely will exercise. The difference, of course, is that Landry was healthy and extremely productive this past season and is all but guaranteed to sign a longer deal that's worth more money if he opts out.
Jack is an unrestricted free agent, but Golden State can re-sign him using the Larry Bird exception, as he's been under the same contract for three seasons.
This makes Landry's decision vital to Golden State's chances of retaining both players.
If Landry accepts his option, the Warriors can attempt to re-sign Jack. If Landry declines and the Warriors do retain Jack, they will have to attempt to use the mini-MLE ($3 million) on Landry, as they'll be over the luxury tax threshold.
Landry is expected to decline his option and likely to decline the mini-MLE, so the Warriors will likely have to choose between him and Jack or take a huge tax hit.
Outside Free Agents
Assuming Landry declines and Golden State loses either him or Jack, the Warriors will not have a complete roster.
Stephen Curry is the only point guard Golden State has under contract, and David Lee is the team's only power forward. If Jack leaves, the team will need a new backup PG, and if Landry leaves they'll need a reserve at the 4.
Once the Warriors exhaust their MLE, they'll have to use either the biannual exception (about $2 million) or the veteran's minimum (about $1.2 million) to sign any more free agents.
At backup PG, the Warriors would be forced to settle for someone like Sebastian Telfair at worst, DJ Augustin at best and Earl Watson in between.
At PF, Golden State would be looking at guys like Brandan Wright, DeJuan Blair and Josh McRoberts.
Salary cap data, player salaries and statistics courtesy of hoopsworld.com, hoopshype.com, shamsports.com and basketball-reference.com.