As the Warriors bask in the afterglow of the almost nuclear devastation they have reaped upon the NBA with their third title in four years, behind the scenes all the angles are being worked to try to maintain this level of dominance.
All summers are big round here. In 2015 Draymond Green was signed to an extension that turned out to be pretty good value once the now infamous cap spike of 2016 exploded contract values around the league.
Of course, that very same cap spike helped the Warriors sign Kevin Durant in the summer of 2016, as well as turning over much of the supporting cast.
Last year, although the roster remained pretty similar, the activity was no less, with the front office signing Stephen Curry to a mega max extension, and Durant to a big discount that allowed them to retain Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.
This summer the to-do list is pretty lengthy. Today I’m going to look at the core stars and what the Warriors will look to do this summer.
Kevin Durant’s options
At the heart of this dynasty is of course the four all stars. Beyond Steph Curry, who has four more years left on his monster contract, there are questions around the contracts of other three.
Kevin Durant is first and foremost, as he is an unrestricted free agent. It is widely trailed that he will re-sign, but there are question marks about the amount and the years. He has hinted at being willing to continue to take discounts, but don’t expect to see anything like last year. His contract status this year does not impact on the Warriors’ ability to re-sign anyone else, only the tax bills looming on the horizon like an ominous grey cloud (more on that later in the week).
Danny Leroux of the Athletic had a typically excellent piece setting out Durant’s options. To precis, he can sign up to a full, four year deal with ‘early Bird rights’ for a total overall value of $158.4m or sign a one plus one deal to get back into free agency next summer when the Warriors would have his ‘full Bird rights’ and be able to give him a five year deal starting at 35% of the cap, with larger raises.
The tricky part for Durant is that the contract based on ‘early Bird rights’ has to be between two years and four. If he wants to sign a one plus one to get back onto the market next summer he can only do so with a 20% raise from his salary the previous year. Because he took such a discount last summer that means his starting salary is about $5m less than an ‘early Bird rights’ contract.
Danny Leroux posits that the most attractive option for Durant is signing an ‘early Bird rights’ contract for two years, with an option year on the third. This would give him some stability, but allow him to get back on the market in the summer of 2020 and either re-sign with the Warriors at age 32 for his last big deal, or explore other options.
Despite Fitz’s ribbing, the Warriors will offer him ‘max years, and max money’ but we’ll see what he decides.
Extensions for everyone!
Klay Thompson is the next order of business. He is still under contract until next summer but can sign an extension based on 120% of his previous salary. As has been discussed previously, because his last contract was signed under the old salary system a new extension this summer would be considerably less than what he could get by holding out until free agency.
His father has consistently poured cold water on suggestions of Thompson signing now, but we shall see soon enough whether Mychal or Marcus has a better read on Klay Thompson’s intentions.
Although it would be a considerable discount from the 5 year, $188m extension Thompson could get next year, an extension now would still average out at $25m per year which is a pretty decent number. If Thompson values being here as much as he does, and he just wants the minimal drama possible then it is conceivable this gets done.
However don’t expect it to happen early in the summer. There’s no time pressure, so it could happen much closer to training camp than the free agency bonanza.
Draymond Green on the other hand is unlikely to sign an extension this summer. The Warriors have said they will offer one, but expect it to be turned down as it would be based on his previous discounted extension.
The headlines last week were all about a report claiming Green wouldn’t take a discount this time round, but his contract isn’t up until 2020 and he may well be eligible for the designated veteran max extension that Curry got if he can recapture his Defensive Player of the Year crown, or make an All NBA team next year or the year after.
So there is literally no real reason for Green to sign now. Two years is an eternity in NBA time and no-one knows yet quite how this team will look or what the competition will be. As I wrote last week I’d bet Green will still be a productive player, and the Warriors will still be able to offer more years and more money without going overboard on one of those mega contracts.
One extension that will get done quickly is Steve Kerr. Happily he managed to coach every single regular season and playoff game this year despite his ongoing health issues.
Kerr remains an absolutely central figure to this Warriors dynasty. His leadership and emotional intelligence has managed to hold this ship together and get through the slog of a fairly meaningless regular season with a pretty tired, bored, grumpy team.
Kerr’s got one year left on his deal, and after racking up the titles and wins like some kind of terrifying hybrid of Phil Jackson and Greg Popovich, he’s due a big payday.
Of course none of that counts towards the cap, so back up that Brink’s Mat truck ‘Light Years’ Joe!
In part II of this series I will look at the ‘Strength in Numbers’ that makes this team tick.