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Let’s not worry about Draymond Green’s contract just yet

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An ESPN report quotes sources saying Green will demand a max contract when the time comes. But he’s not a free agent until 2020.

NBA: Golden State Warriors-Championship Parade
Show me the money!
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

In news designed to rain on our parade, yesterday ESPN reported sources saying that Draymond Green is not expected to take a discount on his next contract.

Sources say Green is not expected to take a pay cut on the next go-around. But the team’s glue guy and architect said he isn’t worried about his next contract negotiation.

”I don’t focus on that because as much as I looked out for the team’s success, that still helps me in a sense of winning a championship and building a legacy that lives on forever,” Green said. “I don’t look at it like it’s their turn to do me right. If I continue to play my game, if I continue to do better, they got to do me right, or somebody else will.

Clearly he has been to the Andre Iguodala school of salary negotiations. This has led to a flurry of ‘OMG the Warriors are going to be broken up’ posts, including some pretty crazy estimates (up to $500m) of the luxury tax and salary bills they would face.

First up, let’s slow down. Green is not a free agent until the summer of 2020. He’s eligible for an extension this summer and the Warriors have been saying they will try to sign him to one along with Klay Thompson, but because he’s still got two years left on his contract it’s unlikely he’ll sign anything now.

The rules around a designated veteran max contract

Unlike Thompson he will still have a realistic chance to become eligible for the designated veteran max slot that the Warriors still have left to offer (you’re allowed two, and Steph Curry has the other one).

If he is named Defensive Player of the Year next year or the year after, or to an All NBA team either year, he could get a five year extension at 35% of the cap. That means a likely starting salary of over $39,000,000 in 2020-21 escalating up to over £50,000,000 in 2024-25, when he will be 35 years old.

Per Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ the qualifying criteria is the following:

The player was named to the All-NBA First, Second or Third team in the most recent season, or both of the two seasons that preceded the most recent season.

The player was named the Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season, or both of the two seasons that preceded the most recent season.

The player was named the NBA Most Valuable Player in any of the three most recent seasons.

As Green only has six years of service he would not be eligible this year, even though he made the All NBA team in 2015-16 and 2016-17, as the other qualification is that you must have played seven or eight seasons.

The only extension he could sign this summer is the same discounted extension Klay Thompson was reported to have been mulling based on 20% of his previous year’s salary. Given he could earn almost double that with one of these mega extensions it would seem highly unlikely he would do that.

The summer of 2020 is a long way away

No-one knows quite what this team will look like in two years. Firstly we need to get through an offseason in which Kevin Durant will almost certainly re-sign. He’s hinted at a discount previously, though not as big as the massive one he took last year. We have no idea at this point how many years he will re-sign for.

Klay Thompson will be up before then too, and he may yet sign that extension on the table, though his father has hinted that he’ll wait until he can get a bigger deal in the summer of 2019.

Andre Iguodala’s contract will expire in the summer of 2020, though he may be traded next summer to keep the bills down. All the rookies and young players may or may not be on the roster at reasonable (or unreasonable) prices.

The Warriors may or may not be champions coming off a fourpeat. Hey, if the people desperate to see an endgame to this dynasty can dream, so can I.

And Draymond Green will be 30 with another two years of physical battling with bigger players away on his undersized frame.

There are so many moving pieces that it’s hard to plot a course through right now. Once the big questions around Durant and Thompson are answered, hopefully this summer, things will become a bit clearer and more precise estimates can be made.

Will Draymond Green be paid $50m a year when he is 35?

I am a massive Draymond Green fan, as I proved when I said I’d rather have him than Anthony Davis. There is every chance he will still be a productive player into his 30s, like fellow undersized defensive big men Ben Wallace (who began to drop off around 33) or Dennis Rodman (who was still hauling down rebounds for the Chicago Bulls at 36).

However, I do have a hard time envisaging anyone paying Green over $50m when he is 35. This isn’t a situation where any other team can offer him that money - only the Warriors could do it.

More likely he will have to ‘settle’ for a maximum contract that he could get on the open market starting at 30% of the cap. The Warriors would be able to add a fifth year and 8% annual raises. Another team bidding for Green could only offer four years and 5% raises.

If Green becomes eligible for the extension next summer he could still sign a five year extension, but not at the full 35%. In this scenario he would sacrifice money that no-one else can give him in order to get the a full five year deal locked down a year early.

This would still be pricey and mean the Warriors tax bill would be significantly larger than if he took a slight discount, but the it’s the first two years that are most important as that’s when Curry’s mega max hits it’s climax.

Once you get past 2022 you can re-sign Curry to a lower amount and potentially get out of the tax depending on the level of the cap and the other big contracts still in play.

So what to make of this report?

Draymond Green is the heartbeat and emotional leader of this team. There’s no doubt he is one of the most valuable players the Warriors have. He has every right to demand the money he is due, especially after the same ESPN report says he took a haircut so they could go after Durant.

However two years is a long way away. What’s clear from this report is that he’s not going to take the kind of extension Thompson might this summer. That makes perfect sense as he could get a lot more, and tie up guaranteed earnings later into his career, if he waits.

It means Warriors fans will have to be patient and put up with lots of speculative crazy numbers flying around for another season or two, but that is par for the course when you have a dynasty that no-one can figure out how to defeat without resorting to salary cap shenanigans.

But it’s worth remembering that when the time comes the Warriors will have made some of the other choices they need to on Durant and Thompson, they will be rolling in Chase Center cash and potentially with a new lucrative TV deal to boot as well, and they can still offer more money and more years without resorting to the paying Green over $50m when he’s 35 years old.

In the meantime if we get an engaged Draymond Green for the next two years dedicated to winning another Defensive Player of the Year trophy, or make another All NBA team, then this squad is going to be near unbeatable.

Then when the time comes we can count our rings, do him right, and use the Chase Center income to swallow a slightly smaller monster tax bill for a couple of years until Curry’s contract comes off the books.