The Golden State Warriors opened free agency with a fantastic July 1st. They continued that success in the next two days of free agency, as they convinced Andre Iguodala to return to the Bay on July 2nd. Then, they re-signed Kevin Durant to a two-year deal with a second-year player option that shockingly fell below the $31.4 million deal needed to keep Iguodala and Shaun Livingston's Bird Rights.
With time left in free agency and some key targets still available (notably Dewayne Dedmon and last year's center duo of Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee), the Warriors might not be done making moves. While they are already deep into the luxury tax for next season already, Iguodala's contract and KD's below-market deal give them more room to maneuver than Joe Lacob and Peter Guber could have reasonably expected. Although the Warriors' current salary commitments make anything beyond minimum contracts next-to-impossible, the Iguodala and Durant signings at their dollar amounts will be vital to Golden State's title defense next season.
Andre Iguodala Returns
Andre Iguodala spent most of the lead-up to his free agency signing taunting fans by posting unrelated tweets and spreading the news that he was not going to meet with the Warriors prior to the start of free agency. Given Iguodala's personality, it seemed almost inevitable that he would break his own free agency news:
The return of Iguodala is more important than most fans even realize. Golden State would still be the title favorites without him. However, Iguodala is still an elite defender and brilliant passer who covers for many potential weaknesses in the Warriors' bench units. Additionally, the famed Death Lineup would not be possible without Andre's ability to switch onto any player from point guard through power forward.
Golden State probably paid more than they might have wanted to for Iguodala's services. However, he showed just how vital he is to the team's success down the stretch run of the regular season with Kevin Durant out. Iguodala is the league's best bench player, and he probably would have won Sixth Man of the Year over Eric Gordon barring a dismal first three months of the season. Furthermore, Golden State had no way at all of replacing him given the team's salary cap situation. Iguodala is worth every penny that the owners are willing to pay him, and barring an unexpectedly steep decline will still live up to this contract despite a slightly higher dollar amount than many expected.
Kevin Durant Takes a Steep Discount
If Andre Iguodala got slightly more than most people expected, the Warriors made up for it by somehow saving money on the Kevin Durant deal. The reports before the playoffs indicated that Durant would be willing to play at a slight discount next year, but no-one expected this much of a bargain:
Kevin Durant helped the Warriors out by not demanding his maximum. Indeed, there was basically no way for Livingston or Iguodala to return to the team if Durant asked for more than the $31.4 million that allowed the Warriors to sign him while retaining the Bird Rights of their two most important bench players. However, it is shocking that Durant accepted even less than that $31.4 million figure. Somehow, this signing might have been even more absurd if Iguodala had opted to go elsewhere:
Durant clearly enjoyed his year with the Warriors, but this deal did far more to save Lacob and Guber money than it did to help the Warriors in free agency. The team is still massively over the luxury tax line, and the Kevin Durant deal will push them over the salary cap apron which will eliminate them from using the Bi-Annual exception. That, in turn, leaves the Warriors with little recourse to bring in new talent for more than the veteran minimum.
Kevin Durant will opt out of the second year of this contract to re-sign to a five-year maximum once he reaches the requisite ten years of NBA experience needed for the 35% maximum contract. However, he still could have signed for a solid chunk of money more than he did on this extension without affecting much more than the owners' pocketbooks. This deal is somewhat confusing at the moment, but Durant's decision could be clarified in the days to come if the Warriors find a way to snag a coveted free agent with some of the extra room created by this contract.