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Golden State Warriors Had No Choice but to Sign Klay Thompson to Max Extension

Josh Martin@@JoshMartinNBANBA Lead WriterNovember 1, 2014

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The Golden State Warriors went down to the wire in their extension negotiations with Klay Thompson, though they practically sealed them back in August.

Or rather, they were sealed for them on Aug. 23. That was the day the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves consummated the blockbuster trade that sent Kevin Love into LeBron James' clutches and, in turn, shipped Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins and a first-round pick (rerouted to the Philadelphia 76ers for Thaddeus Young) to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Out the door went any chance of Love, a three-time All-Star, joining forces with Stephen Curry in a union of All-NBA-type talents.

According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Warriors were as reluctant to include Thompson in a potential deal as the T-Wolves were to make one without him. In essence, then, Golden State was betting big on Thompson to be that second star next to Curry at the very moment the team passed on Love.

They've since upped their bet on the fourth-year swingman, locking down Thompson for the next four years by way of a $70 million extension, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne.

To be sure, the Dubs had plenty of reason to get a deal done with Thompson now beyond the specter of Love in a Cavs uniform.

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For one, the Warriors have some rather lofty aspirations of their own for this season. With Steve Kerr taking over for Mark Jackson as coach, Golden State has the look of a club that's ready to maximize its tremendous talent base on both ends of the floor after a middling offensive performance in 2013-14.

Having Thompson hurtling toward free agency might not have taken too much away from that effort, but the peace of mind that comes with a new contract could help the 24-year-old kid on the cusp of stardom take that all-important next step.

"It can definitely affect a player to think about all of that stuff and to worry about injuries or whatever," Kerr told the San Francisco Chronicle's Rusty Simmons before the deal was finalized. "I’m pretty confident that Klay is just going to play. I’m also quietly confident that something will get done today, and we can put it behind us."

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 7: Head Coach Steve Kerr and Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors speak during a game against the Los Angeles Clippers of the Golden State Warriors speaks to  on October 7, 2014 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Cal
NBA Photos/Getty Images

From a team-player relationship standpoint, it certainly beats delving into restricted free agency and all the tension that can entail.

This past summer featured no shortage of such examples. Gordon Hayward garnered what seemed like an overpayment from the Utah Jazz after the Charlotte Hornets threw everything but the kitchen sink at him.

Greg Monroe settled for a one-year qualifying offer from the Detroit Pistons and will return to the market unrestricted next summer as a result. Eric Bledsoe seemed like he might do the same until the Phoenix Suns signed him to a five-year extension in late September.

The Dubs can and will avoid those potential problems with Thompson because of their recently concluded negotiations. There's no doubt they would've had at least one competitor to contend with for Thompson's services next summer had it come to that, per Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears.

Marc J. Spears @MarcJSpearsESPN

Kings made late push to try to acquire Klay Thompson for anyone not named Cousins or Gay, a source said. Might have helped push GS agreement

Without the Sacramento Kings (and others) cutting in on their Thompson turf, the Warriors will be free to turn their attention to other personnel matters on July 1, 2015.

Chief among those concerns will be retaining Draymond Green. The Michigan State product will be a restricted free agent at season's end. Green's become a pivotal part of Golden State's rotation and, as such, he will likely demand a hefty raise from his second-round salary.

But Thompson's new deal complicates that somewhat. As Basketball Insiders' Nate Duncan surmised prior to the announcement:

If Thompson were given a maximum extension now, the Warriors would be right at the luxury tax next summer before accounting for key restricted free agent Draymond Green’s new contract. ...

With the amount of cap room around the league and the cap set to explode in 2016, Green could receive an offer starting as high as $8 million per year in restricted free agency. If the Warriors max out Thompson and retain Green on such a deal, they would be deep into the luxury tax. 

Indeed, the impending escalation of the salary cap, as Grantland's Zach Lowe outlined, spurred on by the NBA's new $24 billion TV deal, could cut both ways in the Warriors' case. On the one hand, there may be more teams willing to shell out serious cash for a player of Green's versatile talents.

On the other hand, Golden State probably won't have to worry much about the luxury tax if/when the cap rises into the $80 million range.

Still, that won't afford the Warriors much wiggle room until the summer of 2016, when David Lee's contract is due to come off the books.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, per se. If Golden State was so keen to shake things up, the team probably would've pulled the trigger on the Love trade—or, at least, come closer to it. There's already plenty of talent in place, between the Warriors' two All-Stars (Lee and Stephen Curry), defensive anchor (Andrew Bogut), skilled wings (Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes) and, of course, Thompson and Green.

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 10: Draymond Green #23 high fives teammates Klay Thompson #11 and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors while facing the San Antonio Spurs in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2013 NBA Playoffs on May 10
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Thompson, in particular, seems like a player worth banking on. He already ranks among the 20 sharpest three-point shooters in NBA history, thanks to his 545 treys—a league record for a player through his first three seasons.

Thompson, though, is far more than just an outside specialist. He's flashed a burgeoning post game, can handle the ball in a pinch and has established himself as one of the Association's better perimeter defenders. That sort of two-way ability has a ton of value in today's NBA, where lesser lights (compared to Thompson, anyway) like Hayward and Chandler Parsons are now making upward of $15 million a season.

And with Kerr emphasizing ball movement in the Warriors' retooled offense, Thompson should benefit handsomely on the court as well.

Why, then, didn't the Dubs get a deal done sooner? That probably had plenty to do with Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob wanting to play hardball. Per Spears:

Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob had been steadfast about not offering a maximum contract prior to Friday. Thompson and his camp were privately frustrated about not getting a maximum contract prior to Friday and were prepared to go into free agency next summer, source said.

In any case, the two sides got the deal done before the deadline passed. Now, the onus will be on Thompson to live up to the new dollar figure the Warriors had little choice to give him once it kicks in next season.

 

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