After winning their fourth title in eight seasons, the Golden State Warriors face an uncertain future with players hungry for contract extensions. Some of that tension appeared to boil over Wednesday with an altercation between Draymond Green and Jordan Poole.
According to The Athletic, Green "forcefully struck" Poole after some pushing and shoving between the two, resulting in practice being stopped and possible disciplinary action for Green.
Green has a $27.6 million player option for 2023-24, while Poole will be a restricted free agent if he doesn't agree to an extension before the start of the 2022-23 campaign.
If the Warriors, facing historic luxury-tax payments, need to choose between Green or Poole, which of the two should they max out?
Diving into Poole
"Poole," one agent said. "Does Draymond get the max anywhere else?"
Heading into his fourth year, the 23-year-old guard averaged a career-high 18.5 points per game last season. The Warriors can give him a projected four-year, $150.1 million regular extension—or even five at up $194.3 million total—but is Poole worth the standard max, let alone the designated one?
"He's talented offensively," a competing executive said. "But he's got to expand his game."
Should any franchise give out a max deal to somewhat of a one-dimensional player (even if that one dimension, scoring, is usually the one that commands the highest salary)? Poole is skilled, but he has not done enough yet to warrant a max salary.
So, what would be the right price?
"Didn't the [Miami] Heat just set the market for guys like Poole with [Tyler] Herro?" the executive suggested.
Herro signed a four-year, $130 million extension ($10 million of which he must earn via incentives). If Poole expects more, he may need to wait until he is a restricted free agent.
Regardless, the Warriors should hold steady to see how their team looks after the coming season before fully committing. Given the existing investment in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins up for a new deal and Green's option to consider, Golden State could easily see its total payroll and tax balloon to an unprecedented $500 million.
Given the franchise will have the right to match any offer to Poole, what is the rush?
"If you're going to max Poole, you might as well wait," the executive said.
The counterargument might be chemistry issues, exemplified by the dustup with Green. The Phoenix Suns took that route with Deandre Ayton, playing the restricted game (matching an offer from the Indiana Pacers) while damaging their relationship with the young center.
Poole is just a role player on the Warriors—a high-scoring one, but he's certainly not the central star like Curry. Golden State may decide to compensate Poole, but that decision should wait until July unless he is eager to extend at a discount well below the max.
More Green for Green
The debate for Green is a little more complex since he is inextricably tied to the championship identity of the Warriors.
"Their defense is toast without Draymond," the executive said.
Green may not be worth the max to any other team, but he may be that important to the Warriors. Poole's bench scoring can be replaced, but how many players can impact a game like Green while scoring just 7.5 points per night? He's one of the NBA's true unicorns at 6'6", capable of dishing seven assists per night while playing all five positions.
If the Warriors have another championship season, they cannot realistically uproot a foundational piece like Green. But there's also his age to consider, as he's turning 33 in March. He has also begun to slow down a bit, playing in just 46 games last season.
Green can decline his option before the start of this season to extend at almost $31 million. If he wants the max, he'll need to wait until the summer when he's eligible for a five-year deal starting at approximately $46.9 million per year. That's not likely to happen.
But the Warriors should seriously consider giving Green his max extension in dollars (not years). That works out to be a $3.4 million raise for 2023-24, and Golden State should tack on one additional year (with team control, be it an option or partial guarantee).
"The [Warriors] are in a pretty unique position in terms of young/old players," the executive said. "Maybe the Warriors take a big step back due to age, chemistry and losing key role players. Maybe Draymond becomes washed."
And as the agent said, "Does Draymond get the max anywhere else?"
Perhaps the Los Angeles Lakers could be a threat in free agency if the team holds onto its potential cap room near $31 million. Green is with Klutch Sports, the same agency as LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Poole's age works in his favor, but Green is more valuable if winning now is the priority. Perhaps the answer is a short-term extension for Green that gives the Warriors the flexibility to continue as they are for as long as possible but also the ability to pivot if the time has come to give the younger players a more significant opportunity.
The franchise will survive this spat between Green and Poole, but it's unclear how much longer the current incarnation of the Warriors will last. Waiting to commit to Poole is more straightforward since he's restricted, but leaving Green in the lurch without an extension could lead to acrimony similar to Ayton's recent experience in Phoenix.
A short-term, team-friendly extension for Green may be more valuable to the franchise than rushing to overpay Poole prematurely.