- Ezra Shaw/Getty
No NBA dynasty can stay together forever, but the Golden State Warriors have a fairly simple path that could let them continue to dominate the NBA for years.
The Warriors have run into some enviable luck when it comes to contracts. Stephen Curry was locked into a four-year, $44 million contract before he became a back-to-back MVP. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green both signed big, long-term deals before the salary cap exploded, locking them into now-below-market contracts.
All of this allowed the Warriors to chase Kevin Durant last summer and add one of the NBA’s three best players to a team that won 73 games last season.
This summer, it would appear as though the core would collapse. Curry will be a free agent, undoubtedly seeking a true max. contract after years of being underpaid. Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston are free agents, and Durant has an opt-out to take if he so chooses.
However, as Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News explains, the Warriors could keep this core together with a fairly simple, albeit expensive plan that all parties seem to agree upon. It begins with Durant, Kawakami explains:
“The key mathematical part of this for the Warriors is Durant, who could seek the max of about $36 million for 2017-18. But the Warriors don’t have his Bird Rights, so they would have to shed a lot of money to create the cap space to fit such a salary, and that would include the renouncing of Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.
“But if Durant is willing to take strictly a 20 percent raise from this season’s salary of $26.5 million up to $31.8 million, the Warriors would not have to fit him into cap space and then could use Bird Rights to re-sign Iguodala and Livingston above and beyond the cap.”
As Kawakami notes, it’s difficult to ask a player to turn down money, but if Durant chooses this route, he could then sign another short-term contract in 2018, become a free agent again in 2019, and sign a full, five-year max for considerably more once the Warriors have his full Bird Rights.
If Durant opts in, then the Warriors can go over the salary cap to re-sign Iguodala and Livingston to their desired prices because they have both player’s full Bird Rights. And regardless of the other three, the Warriors can re-sign Curry to a full five-year max that’s estimated to be worth over $200 million.
From the sounds of it, all players are in on this plan. According to Kawakami, Curry, Green, Thompson, and Iguodala would not have traveled to the Hamptons to recruit Durant last season if they thought it would be a short-term partnership. Additionally, what other team could offer the players a better situation?
“I’m not going through that again,” Durant told Kawakami of free agency on the “Warriors Plus-Minus” podcast.
“Haven’t even thought about it that much. But I don’t plan on going anywhere else.”
Curry also told Kawakami that he doesn’t see a reason to play anywhere else.
“Like I’ve said from Day 1 when I was first asked about free agency, this is a perfect place to play. Bay Area fans are amazing, our organization’s amazing, we’ve put together an amazing team that’s competing for championships every year. There’s really no reason that I can see right now that would draw me elsewhere.”
And Iguodala, though he was a bit looser in his commitment, also told Kawakami that he’s confident things will work out.
“The people that need to know, they know the situation, and there’s not going to be any issue. … [GM] Bob [Myers] and I have conversations all the time about different scenarios and different things, not just about me, but about the rest of the team … So I don’t see it being a big problem at all. And here right now will probably be the best place.”
With NBA salaries rising, committing to two max. contracts, plus the contracts of Green and Thompson – owed $16.4 and $17.8 million, respectively, in 2017-18 – and the new deals for Iguodala and Livingston would be expensive for the Warriors. Additionally, they’d need to fill out the rest of the team, as players like Zaza Pachulia and David West will also be free agents.
However, this is the price for contending in the NBA, and if the Warriors aren’t willing to spend big to keep together an historically good group, what would they be willing to spend on?