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What are the implications for the Warriors of Quinn Cook’s two year deal?

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A look ahead at what signing two-way sensation Quinn Cook to a two-year deal could mean for the Warriors.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors
Two of these guys could be on the Warriors next year
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

According to the noted #WojBomb scupperer Shams Chanaria, the Golden State Warriors have agreed to a multi-year deal with the mighty Quinn Cook that will see him stick with the squad through next year.

As Danny Leroux set out, this will be a minimum contract, which is a pretty good deal for the Warriors given how Cook has performed.

But beyond his availability for the playoffs, Cook’s signing opens up some new avenues the Warriors can explore in the offseason, depending how aggressive the Warriors want to get in changing up the roster.

The taxpayer mid-level exception remains in play

Cook’s signing not only gives us some reliable bench shooting for next year, it also crucially means we don’t have to use our taxpayer MLE on him and therefore still have that available.

And if the free agent market is as tight as commentators such as Danny Leroux say it could be, then the taxpayer MLE should be able to get you a fairly decent player.

While the methodology is somewhat different now than previously, the estimate for league-wide cap space was $400 million in 2017 after an eye-popping $1 billion in 2016...

The new figure for 2018 is around a 30 percent reduction from the August estimate: $280 million.

...more than half of the league will have the smaller $5.3 million taxpayer MLE as the largest first-year salary they can offer free agents, and that will not be enough to attract a difference-maker barring a truly special situation.

Last year, the taxpayer MLE was used on Nick Young. Along with Omri Casspi this was supposed to provide some really solid depth, size, and shooting ability on the bench. It hasn’t quite worked like that. Young frankly hasn’t been great so far, and Casspi steadfastly refused to shoot from long range.

But with Cook locked down, the pressure to add another pricey shooter next year may be lessened. This is helpful because shooters are now at a premium in the NBA, in large part thanks to the Warriors-led revolution.

Who’s the starting center next year?

Perhaps a more promising use of the taxpayer MLE could be a new starting center. There’s a pretty desperate need to change things up here with Zaza Pachulia aging fast, David West potentially retiring, and JaVale McGee’s limitations. And with centers a bit less valued, there’s likely to be options to get someone half-decent.

One example of how that money could be used is on someone like Brook Lopez. He’s a former Myers client, just turned 30, and after many years of playing for losing teams he may be ready to take a pay cut to play for a winner.

He’s obviously not the defender or rebounder Pachulia and Andrew Bogut before him were, but he can do a lot of other things. He’s a big body who can screen and run some of the offensive sets Kerr likes, but can also stretch the floor from three and operate in the low post.

Can you imagine starting the game not playing 4-on-5 on offense? And if West doesn’t come back he’s got the skills to fit with the second unit as well.

The Warriors will still have two bouncy young guys under contract - Jordan Bell and Damian Jones - to take up the McGee athletic, dunking, rim protecting role.

If they can persuade West and/or Looney to come back, alongside Chris Boucher on the second year of his two way contract, that’s potentially a pretty nice big man rotation there.

Of course, the taxpayer MLE could be used on any number of players, or a different position, but this is just an example of how retaining the taxpayer MLE could allow the Warriors to mix things up a bit.

Can Cook nab the back-up point guard spot?

One further implication is that Cook could grab that back-up point guard spot from an aging Shaun Livingston. Livingston only has one more year fully guaranteed, so if Cook balls out in the post-season, Livingston could become expendable. No doubt he’s been an incredibly valuable player for the last four years, and a key locker room leader. But he’s aging and now rarely plays more than 15-20 minutes a night.

So a new, reliable back-up point guard means that Livingston’s contract (around $8 million next year, and $2 million guaranteed the following year) could be used to bring in another player at a higher salary via a trade, creating another option to improve the roster beyond just using minimum contracts. Alternatively, the money could just be dumped somewhere to bring down the increasing tax bills.

The playoffs over the next few months will determine a lot, including how aggressive the Warriors will be in the off season.

But crucially by tying Cook up at a minimum deal for next year as well, the Warriors have opened up some options to freshen up a team that has looked pretty stale (by their usual stratospheric standards) throughout the regular season.