Warriors Trade Exception Primer: Top Targets and How It Could Help Land Giannis

Eric Pincus@@EricPincusLA Lakers Lead WriterNovember 4, 2020

Golden State Warriors guard Andrew Wiggins (22) against the Washington Wizards during an NBA basketball game in San Francisco, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Will the return of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson catapult the Golden State Warriors back to the top of the Western Conference? Not with their roster of young, developing players.

Curry (hand) and Thompson (knee) sat out most or all of the Warriors' 15-win season, forced to watch from afar as LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers won the title in the Orlando bubble. With Kevin Durant in Brooklyn with the Nets, Andre Iguodala in Miami with the Heat and Shaun Livingston retired, the Warriors need to build a new supporting cast around their dynamic backcourt.

The team did acquire forward Andrew Wiggins before the trade deadline from the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Warriors also got the No. 2 pick in the November 18 draft for their disappointing 2019-20 campaign. But their most valuable tool for adding talent this offseason may be the sizable trade exception generated when they sent Iguodala in trade to the Memphis Grizzlies on July 7, 2019.

The Limitations

The most the Warriors can take back in trade is a player earning up to $100,000 more than Iguodala's 2019-20 salary; the exact limit is $17,285,185.

The Iguodala trade was one of several complicated moves to orchestrate the sign-and-trade with the Nets for D'Angelo Russell (in return for Durant). The Warriors later moved Russell to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Wiggins and a 2021 first-round pick (top-three protected, unprotected in 2022).

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Acquiring a player via sign-and-trade triggers a hard cap, which limited the Warriors to spending no more than $138.9 million this past season. That cap would typically expire on June 30, followed by a five-day league moratorium through July 5. Under normal circumstances, the Warriors would have had two days (July 6-7) to utilize the Iguodala trade exception's full value, precisely a year from the original trade with the Grizzlies.

Unfortunately, the NBA calendar is a bit of a mess. The 2020-21 year has no start date just yet, but Golden State will have at least a day or two to use the Iguodala trade exception before it expires. The Warriors can use it before the end of 2019-20 but can only add about $6.6 million before reaching the hard cap.

For the sake of illustration (using nonsense examples), on the day of the draft, the Warriors could legally trade the No. 2 pick to the New Orleans Pelicans for Jaxson Hayes ($4.9 million for 2019-20) but not for Lonzo Ball ($8.7 million) because of the hard cap.

They could agree instead to select at No. 2 (under the direction of the Pelicans), waiting until the end of the 2020-21 moratorium to execute a deal. Ball's $11 million for next season easily fits within the Iguodala trade exception, but the Warriors would need to rely on faith that Ball will pass a physical. If he fails, they would either be stuck with the player they took for the Pelicans or accept the trade even if Ball is not healthy.


The Needs

The Warriors still have their trio of stars in Curry, Thompson and Green. They also have Wiggins, set to earn $94.7 million over the next three years. Outside of Kevon Looney, their role players don’t have any championship experience (Jordan Poole, Marquese Chriss, Ky Bowman, Eric Paschall, Damion Lee, etc.).

"If they like Wiggins, then you get two or three veterans [with the trade exception]," a former Western Conference executive said. "If they don’t, go get a guy that better fits your system like Eric Gordon, Danny Green, JJ Redick or Joe Ingles."

Tyler Kaufman/Associated Press

The team could use a starting center and depth at nearly every position, especially at point guard. Golden State projects to be well over the luxury tax next season. The team will only have the taxpayer mid-level exception to spend (~$5.7 million) outside of minimum contracts.

That might be enough to lure a serviceable center like Tristan Thompson, but that may not be nearly enough to give the Warriors the kind of depth they need to compete at the highest level in the Western Conference. 

They may also get an important contributor at No. 2 in the draft.

"I would take James Wiseman [from Memphis] or Deni [Avdija from Israel] if they like Wiggins," he continued.


Other Top Trade Exception Targets

The Warriors' trade exception is large enough to acquire any single player on the Atlanta Hawks' roster, including center Clint Capela ($16 million for 2020-21). Golden State could also try to swap picks with the Hawks, giving No. 2 for No. 6 with one or more of Atlanta's emerging young players as a target (John Collins, Kevin Huerter, De'Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, etc.).

The Boston Celtics might look to trade Enes Kanter if he opts into his contract's final year at $5 million. Boston, facing luxury taxes and roster count issues, could choose to compensate the Warriors for taking on the veteran center.

If the Phoenix Suns are looking to enter the offseason with sizable cap space, they may trade Kelly Oubre Jr. and his final year at $14.4 million. Would swapping down with the Chicago Bulls from No. 2 to No. 4 make sense in return for guard Tomas Satoransky, who will earn $10 million next season?

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

It’s unclear if any of the veterans listed by the executive will be available and at what price. Gordon is at $16.9 million for 2020-21 with the Houston Rockets, Green at $15.4 million with the Lakers, Redick $13.0 million with the Pelicans and Ingles $10.9 million with the Utah Jazz.

Others to consider: Spencer Dinwiddie (Nets at $11.5 million for next season), Josh Richardson (Philadelphia 76ers, $10.9 million), Jonas Valanciunas (Memphis Grizzlies, $15 million), Will Barton (Denver Nuggets, $13.7 million) and Dennis Schroder (Oklahoma City Thunder, $15.5 million), among others.

A combination from the New York Knicks in Taj Gibson ($9.5 million) and Reggie Bullock ($4.2 million) would provide veteran depth. If Evan Fournier opts into his final year with the Orlando Magic, his $17.15 million also fits within the exception.


Eyes on Giannis

The NBA has several hot-button issues to deal with, notably when and how will next season be played, and how will the league and players deal with the loss of income when games resume without fans. But once that business is taken care of, all eyes will turn to the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The two-time NBA MVP can accept a supermax extension from the Bucks in the $235 million range. Per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Antetokounmpo met with Bucks governor Marc Lasry in September, and they agreed to continue talks at a later date.

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

ESPN Sources: MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo's 3-hour lunch with Bucks co-owner/governor Marc Lasry on Friday covered the season, how Bucks can improve roster, Lasry confirming willingness to spend into luxury tax and agreement they’ll talk again after Giannis returns from a vacation.

If Antetokounmpo chooses not to commit long-term with Milwaukee, the team can play out his contract with hopes he decides to stay with a new deal (also at the supermax), but the Bucks risk losing him as a free agent. Or the franchise could look to trade him first.

The Warriors would undoubtedly package Wiggins with the No. 2 pick, the Minnesota pick and just about everyone on the roster not named Curry, Thompson or Green. That may not be enough for the Bucks, but the Warriors can also use their trade exception to help get Eric Bledsoe off Milwaukee's books.

Bledsoe will earn $16.9 million for next season ($54.4 million over the next three years, though the final season is only $3.9 million guaranteed).

Does that make an Antetokounmpo trade more palatable to the Bucks? They'll first do everything in their power to get their All-Star to stay. It might take a big push from Antetokounmpo toward the Warriors (he shares an agent with Curry in Octagon's Jeff Austin), which is still a lot to assume.

Bank on the Warriors making overtures to the Bucks, if they haven't already.


Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter, @EricPincus.


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