The Golden State Warriors have not been shy about spending money to stay at the top of the NBA’s hierarchy. And so far it has paid off.
They’ll be willing to spend money again this coming season, which they’ll start at a disadvantage, given their injuries.
Last year the Warriors used the mid-level exception (MLE) to sign DeMarcus Cousins. While the contract was just $5.3 million, the tax payments drove the total investment north of $20 million.
This year, GM Bob Myers said that majority shareholder Joe Lacob is willing to not only use the MLE again, but potentially the disabled player exception (DPE). Speaking at the team’s pre-draft availability, Myers described the fiscal state of the team heading into the offseason.
Sounds like Bob Myers has been given the freedom from ownership, again, to use all financial avenues — taxpayer mid-level, buy pick, possibly disabled player exception — if it helps Warriors competitively. Just can’t be “fiscally irresponsible.” pic.twitter.com/z9TQ7H3Qb3— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) June 19, 2019
“I’m fortunate to work for someone that - people say these things, but - winning has always been the primary goal,” Myers said. “And look, we run a business. So it’s not being completely fiscally irresponsible. But every time I’ve went to Joe and it has benefited us competitively, he’s responded affirmatively and said, ‘Okay.’ So there’s never really been even a hard budget, so to speak. We’ve got to be cost conscious too, though. I think that anybody would, but I will say that the decisions we’ve made, I think - don’t trust my words, trust our payroll. Just look at what it is: it’s big.”
Those are certainly reassuring words, even if using the DPE remains quite unlikely.
For starters, it’s still a long-shot that the Warriors are even granted the DPE. Many things have to go right for it to occur. First, the team would need to re-sign Kevin Durant, as it would take a serious complication in Klay Thompson’s recovery for him to qualify the team for the DPE.
Even if Durant re-signs, it’s no sure thing that they get the exception. In order to qualify for a DPE, doctors have to determine that the player is substantially likely to be out until at least June 15. That would mean doctors would have to decide that Durant’s recovery was overwhelmingly likely to last more than a year. For reference, Cousins’ recovery time from the same injury was just under a year, and the Warriors took things slowly and carefully with him.
And, if doctors decide that, the exception still has to be granted by a committee. Teams who acquire a new player who is already injured are not allowed to apply for the DPE. While the Warriors are technically allowed to apply, the fact that Durant was hurt before he signs his contract (if he signs one), almost surely lessens their chances.
If all of that works out, and the DPE is granted, then things get interesting. The DPE would allow the Warriors to use a salary worth the non-taxpayer exception, which is a little north of $9 million. But in this scenario, Durant has re-signed for the max. Add Thompson’s max contract in there, and the Warriors are so dramatically over the cap (plus paying a repeater penalty) that their tax payments are enormous.
In all likelihood, using the DPE will cost the Warriors something in the ballpark of $70 million. That’s a ton of money, considering that they’re only able to give a little more than $9 million of that to the player, so they’re unlikely to find someone who moves the needle too much.
Even the MLE is no sure thing. Remember, the Warriors were leaning towards not using the MLE a year ago, until Cousins became available.
Long story short: The Warriors will dole out a ton of money if it helps them win a championship. But it remains unclear if they think any player available at their price point will do that.