When the Golden State Warriors salvaged JaVale McGee’s career last year by offering him a non-guaranteed contract, it opened the eyes of many NBA observers. Once famous for being something of an anti-highlight reel, McGee now finds himself the object of desire as a few teams concurrently pursue him in free agency.
Free agent JaVale McGee has a meeting set with Clippers today, sources tell ESPN. He's remained engaged with Warriors on return there.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 5, 2017
For those who were wondering earlier why there was no news about McGee so far in free agency, it was because most teams were waiting for the big names to settle out in free agency. Now that almost all the big names have done so, the NBA now turns its collective attention towards filling out their rotation players.
McGee meeting with Clippers
The Clippers are actually a pretty good fit for McGee and what he offers. Although they have the very capable DeAndre Jordan starting at center, it gets pretty slim after that — the only other center on their roster is 6-foot-8 Montrezl Harrell. Their offensive and defensive schemes should be fairly friendly to McGee, who should be more than able to replicate much of the lob catching and shot blocking that Jordan brings.
The Warriors, for their part, would absolutely love to have McGee back, a feeling that is apparently mutual:
He has stated that he will come back if the “offers are close” but with the Warriors roster quickly filling up, the options for fitting his contract back in here are getting slimmer by the day. With the Warriors' agreement with Omri Casspi, the roster now stands at 12, leaving three spots left to fill. Rumors are swirling that Zaza Pachulia will return, which leaves even less room for McGee.
What’s the hassle?
The Warriors have not been shy about flinging money around this offseason, so you might wonder why McGee’s contract is any different. But there’s a looming danger that team must avoid - the dreaded Luxury Tax Apron.
In 2011 the NBA introduced another level above the luxury tax line known as the “apron”. This is a line $4 million above the luxury tax line. If a team’s payroll is above this level, they essentially lose access to several salary cap exceptions. If a team is under the apron but uses certain salary cap exceptions, they will be hard-capped at the apron until the following June 30.
I’m no expert in any of this, but my understanding is that for the 2017-18 season, the apron is set at $125,266,000. For the upcoming season, it is currently estimated that the Warriors have commitments in the amount of $125,813,116.
Which basically means they have approximately zero wiggle room, maybe less. Note that that salary figure does not currently include either Pachulia or McGee.
There are two main issues associated with this hard cap. First of all, it limits the Warriors’ flexibility to address needs during the season - moves as simple as giving a guy like Briante Webber a 10-day contract, or plugging in a veteran like Matt Barnes to solve a roster hole caused by injury. And secondly, they need to keep the future in mind — the better they manage contracts the easier it will be to maintain flexibility for the future. As it is, it could be difficult to hang on to a young, promising wing like Patrick McCaw if they don’t have the full range of salary cap exceptions.
Regardless, I just want McGee and Pachulia to come back. It feels like the right move. But given the bevy of young big men on the roster, and the cap implications, it is easy to see why the Warriors are hamstrung on making a decisive move on McGee at this point.