As the 2017-18 NBA season ambles along, there’s a few salary cap nuggets bubbling away to chew over.
The December 15th deadline
One of the first big deadlines for salary cap watchers is December 15th. This is when players signed over the summer become eligible for trades. The Golden State Warriors’ roster is pretty set so it’s unlikely to mean much, but it does open up some flexibility if the front office need to make a move down the line.
End of the rotation bigs
Earlier in the season, I set out why not picking up Kevon Looney’s option would provide flexibility in the event of a need to bring in a veteran later on. As it stands, though, Looney has been pretty effective in his minutes and, as a young player, currently looks like he’s worth keeping around.
But as Looney — and increasingly, Jordan Bell — have ascended, Javale McGee has not had the same impact as he did last year. It’s not quite clear why — perhaps it’s because teams are doing a better job of scouting out the lob plays he thrived on so much — but he’s looking like the most likely odd man out on the roster.
So the question to watch going forward is whether the Warriors feel they can use that spot more effectively going into the playoffs. Again don’t expect major moves, but that deadline frees up a bit more flexibility in case they need to upgrade.
As an aside, Damian Jones may not have played but he’s clearly a project they’re working on for next year, hence picking up his option. So it seems more unlikely that they will just drop him and leave dead money on the cap next year.
Quinn Cook and the two-way contract
As the two-way contract stands he gets 45 days with the main squad. Any time beyond that and you need to convert it into a veteran minimum deal, which would require a vacant roster spot.
He’s a long way off from that milestone yet, and it’s worth remembering that the counter only includes days during the G-League season. So any time spent with the main squad before 30th October doesn’t count. But if Stephen Curry will be out for a while, the time could build up.
Another potential factor is that players on two-way contracts can’t play in the playoffs. If Cook does impress they may want him around for the playoff run and will have some tough decisions to make.
Either way, he’s looking like a decent bet for a deal next year when the money gets tighter. They’ve used this two-way contract very effectively to bring him along in the same manner they developed Ian Clark a couple of years back.
Klay Thompson extension
Speaking of money getting tighter, one thing to watch out for is whether Klay Thompson’s future gets settled a little earlier than his free agency in 2019. He has come into this season looking considerably improved.
He’s worked on his ball-handling and play-making, allowing him to be a more effective option in the second unit. His shooting appears much more consistent so far, averaging 20.6 points per game on 51% from the floor and 47.4% from three, alongside a career-high 4.2 rebounds per game.
As a result of this improvement he’s in the running to join his teammates Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant in the exclusive 50-40-90 club, a stated ambition from earlier in the season. On top of that, he’s been contributing well on the defensive end as you might expect from a great two-way player.
This excellent play may come at a cost, though. If Klay Thompson continues in this vein, he may well make one of the all-NBA teams, meaning he’d be eligible to sign a designated veteran extension this summer which would start at $37.8 million in 2019.
Thompson had previously said he’s open to taking a discount, and the Warriors will likely have a number in mind to offer him when the time comes. But if he’s eligible for the megamax they’ll be some decisions to make this summer.
Even a discounted megamax will come at a high price, but with the security of a five year extension on top of another year already under contract Thompson may well be tempted to to give a little more back.
We shall see, but I’m still not worried about Klay Thompson. He loves it here, and recognizes the unique opportunity he has.
In a part two, I will look in more detail at what the influx of TV money means and hopefully you’ll see why I’m as chilled as Klay Thompson in the Bahamas.