The Golden State Warriors have dominated the last eight years. Winning four NBA titles and six Western Conference titles since 2015, the Warriors have truly established themselves as one of the game’s great dynasties. While their run of dominance could realistically last until Steph Curry begins his decline, Golden State’s core group is heading towards an inevitable breakup.
With Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole, and Andrew Wiggins each eligible for contract extensions in the near future, the Warriors would be forced to exceed $400M in luxury tax and salary payments in order to retain each of their key players. ESPN analyst and salary cap expert Bobby Marks recently detailed why the Warriors are set to lose at least one of their extension-eligible players.
“Does ownership have an apatite to spend $400M to retain those players? That’s going to be the big thing here,” Marks said. “It’s not going to be Boston, it’s not going to be Miami, it’s not going to be Toronto, it’s not going to be Philly, it’s not going to be Milwaukee, it’s not going to be Brooklyn, it’s going to be finances will break this roster up, perhaps.”
While Marks added that ownership’s willingness to pay upwards of $400M could save the roster, all indications point towards the contrary.
“Joe Lacob has been on the record saying $400M and $500M – he told Tim Kawakami from The Athletic, ‘That’s not reasonable.’ Well if it’s not reasonable, someone is going to have to go, and someone is not going to be brought back,” Marks said.
Who is the odd man out?
There is no perfect answer for the Warriors when it comes to who they should sacrifice. The duo of Klay Thompson and Draymond Green has been a perfect partnership alongside Steph Curry for nearly a decade now; however, the rise of Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins seems to be equally as vital to success now and in the future.
That element of maximizing both current and future potential is what the Warriors would seemingly value most. Having successfully navigated the near impossible task of winning a championship without sacrificing youth, the Warriors have shown no signs of diverging from that path. Because of this, it seems unlikely that the team would part ways with 23-year-old Jordan Poole, or 27-year-old Andrew Wiggins.
With both players serving as key components to Golden State’s championship run, and presumably having their best basketball ahead of them, refusing to extend Poole or Wiggins would be counterintuitive to everything the Warriors seemingly stand for. This shifts the focus to Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the extension-eligible veterans that have helped define a dynasty.
Klay or Dray?
With Draymond Green reportedly seeking a four-year / $138.4M maximum contract extension, which would pay him approximately $35M in his age-37 season, the Warriors have a tough decision to make. Despite his irreplaceable intangibles and defensive prowess, Draymond has declined significantly on the offensive end. Committing $138.4M to Draymond at this stage in his career, in addition to luxury tax payments, is a hard sell.
As for Klay Thompson, the three-point sniper has two-years / $83.8M guaranteed left on his contract. This makes his potential extension the least imminent, as both sides are currently content with that structure. That said, if he wants to see the Warriors keep this core intact for several more years, the four-time champion must be willing to take a significant discount when his current deal expires.
With no movement on an extension for Draymond Green, and all indications pointing towards an unwillingness from Golden State to offer him the max, two possibilities remain. Green could seek a similar annual value elsewhere, albeit almost certainly not for his desired four years, or he can walk back his request for the max.
While the jury is still out on Klay’s potential willingness to take a discount, the current sense around the league is that Draymond will explore outside options to receive the contract he wants, if the Warriors refuse to offer it themselves.
It is not entirely clear what the Warriors and their extension-eligible players intend to do, but unless something unforeseen takes place, a breakup feels inevitable.