The Golden State Warriors stood firm in their beliefs this offseason and shunned Kevin Love in favor of Klay Thompson. They’ve gone all-in with their current roster not just for this season, but for the foreseeable future.
It won’t be all fun and games, however, as contract negotiations will soon be on the horizon. Serious dollars will have to be spent, and the Warriors will likely find themselves well over the salary cap if they want to keep the core of their team together.
The Warriors already have several key players under contract for the next few years, some on more cap-friendly deals than others. Stephen Curry represents one of the biggest bargains in all of the NBA, as he’s set to bring in around $10.5 million this coming year. He’s signed through the 2016-17 season.
That’s where the bargains end, however.
David Lee is on the books for over $15 million per year over the next two seasons. He’ll have to ensure that his offense is enough to justify that amount of money since his defense is nonexistent.
Like Curry, Andre Iguodala is signed through the 2016-17 season, and he’ll bring in right around the same money, just under $12 million a year. At 30 years old, Iguodala is right in the middle of his prime, but he’ll have to improve on an uncharacteristically down season.
Andrew Bogut is the biggest question mark of the bunch. When he plays, he’s well worth the $12 million the Warriors are paying him each season. Unfortunately, he’s rarely healthy these days and finds himself collecting checks from the bench. His ability to stay on the court is as vital as anything the Warriors will do in the future.
Regardless of how they play, those guys aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s the young trio of Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green that promises to shake things up.
Thompson is the reason that Kevin Love is not currently wearing a Warriors jersey. From head coach Steve Kerr to adviser Jerry West, Thompson has the complete backing of the front office. Based on the improvements he’s made each season, he seems likely to reward their faith.
He’s also likely to demand a maximum contract in the very near future. Even with the salary cap set to rise by 7.5 percent to $63 million, the Warriors must be prepared to pay the luxury tax for the next few seasons. The Warriors and Thompson will likely agree to an extension at the end of the next campaign, and once that money kicks in, it will likely mean the end of the Harrison Barnes experiment.
Barnes is set to bring in nearly $4 million next season, but after that, the Warriors will have a club option to bring him back for the next two. If the Warriors give Thompson the extension he desires, it’s very likely that they would let Barnes go. If Barnes underperforms again, letting him walk becomes easy.
If he finally realizes his potential, however, that would mean he likely priced his way out of Golden State. The Warriors would be able to pick up his option for one season, but after that, it’s sayonara.
The only scenario in which Barnes could remain on the squad would be if the Warriors were able to find a trade partner willing to take on one of their large contracts. But with Lee being severely overpaid, Bogut being injury prone and Iguodala showing flashes of inconsistency, the likelihood of a trade is slim.
Fortunately for the Warriors, the blow of losing Barnes would be significantly softened should they be able to retain Draymond Green. Green will make under $1 million this season but will be eligible for a $1.5 million qualifying offer from the Warriors for the 2015-16 season.
Expect the Warriors to pull the trigger on that one and for Green to promptly turn it down. He’ll be worth much more than that. The Warriors would be wise to work on an extension with Green sooner rather than later to save themselves the headache of having to match whatever offer is on the table.
Obviously, we can’t know for certain where the Warriors are headed, but what we do know is that they are committed to winning and willing to spend to get there. Owner Joe Lacob said as much in an interview with Sean Deveney of Sporting News:
I don’t want to pay the luxury tax, nobody wants to. That’s why it is a luxury tax, it is very punitive. But if it means winning vs. not winning, I choose winning. So that’s not an issue. At the end of the day, all the things we are talking about are important, but the fans care about one thing: Are you winning? Not the luxury tax. If I am not here to win, then I shouldn’t be here. We need to win.
The next two years will be crucial to determining where the Warriors are headed in the long term. The current group needs to show that they’re worth investing in. If they do, the front office will have no choice but to open up the pocketbooks.