Winning costs a lot of money, and the Golden State Warriors have been fearless in allocating vast amounts of money to world-class players.
Speculation has centered around how long the Warriors can keep this team together within the confines of the salary cap.
The core five of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala are mostly locked in for the next few seasons. Curry is signed through the 2021-2022 season. Green and Iguodala are signed through the 2019-2020 season.
The earliest decisions will have to be made on Durant and Thompson. Durant has a player option for the 2018-2019 season.
This past offseason, Durant declined what was a $27.7 million player option to re-sign with the Warriors for less than the max. Durant will make $25 million for 2017-2018 but was eligible to make $34.5 million as a max contract.
For a player of his stature, Durant being willing to leave so much money on the table speaks volumes about these players’ desires to sacrifice resources in order to keep the group together.
Durant has implied that despite the short duration of his contracts, he enjoys playing for the Warriors and will presumably do everything in his power to remain with the franchise as long as the team success continues.
Thompson’s contract situation is a looming predicament. He’s set to become a free agent after the 2018-2019 season.
The salary cap for the 2019-2020 season is being projected at around $109 million, and they have about $83.6 million already guaranteed to Curry, Green, Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston.
The Warriors are set to move into the Chase Center that season, providing another incentive for ownership to usher in a new era in San Francisco with the same core that had been so successful in Oakland.
The Larry Bird Exception allows teams to exceed the salary cap in order to re-sign their own free agents. A player needs to play three seasons with one team without being waived or changing teams via free agency in order to qualify.
The Warriors have Thompson’s Bird Rights. It appears like they’ll have the ability to retain him if they’re willing to pay the luxury tax and round out a roster with cheap minimum contracts.
It’s unclear if Thompson wants to remain with the team or depart to become more of a focal point on another roster that doesn’t boast as much star power as the Warriors.
Rounding Out the Roster
Building a bench with one-year deals for cheap money is something the Warriors had to do this season and is a strategy they will likely have to continue utilizing with so few players eating up so much of their payroll.
The good news is that the team is advertising itself as a place where veteran players can join for a championship run by signing a team-friendly contract at the veteran minimum.
The Warriors will always be in play as a free agent destination for players who feel as though they’ve accumulated enough money in their careers but want a chance at competing for a championship, assuming the team will continue to perform at a high level.
Of their 15 players, 6 are not signed beyond next season. Kevon Looney and Damian Jones have a team option for 2018-2019.
Nick Young, Zaza Pachulia, David West, JaVale McGee, Omri Casspi, and Patrick McCaw aren’t signed past this upcoming season.
With how much of their payroll is eaten up by their stars, the Warriors will essentially enter every offseason looking to rebuild their bench on short-term cheap contracts.
In many cases, players will likely have to take less money than they could secure from another team in order to join the Warriors.
For the 2018-2019 season, Curry, Thompson, Green, Iguodala, Livingston, and Jordan Bell have guaranteed contracts.
Durant has a player option, but just judging from his previous comments, while the dollar amount seems up in the air, he’ll most likely be on the Warriors.
It’s difficult to project what will occur far off into the future, but the Warriors are on track to field the same core players for at least the next couple seasons.
That almost certainly assures that the Warriors will remain championship contenders each season until the calendar turns over into the 2020s.
The team culture has been predicated on collective success over individual accolades, which can serve as a valuable motivation for players wanting to keep the band together.