By now the exciting reality has fully set in: Andrew Wiggins is an All-Star. And not just any All-Star, but an All-Star starter.
The recognition honors Wiggins’ improvements on defense and scoring efficiency, as well as the Golden State Warriors place near the top of the NBA’s hierarchy, which Wiggins has certainly had a huge hand in.
It’s a glistening accomplishment that places Wiggins in a group alongside some of the brightest stars in the world. Just look at the names chosen as All-Star starters: Steph Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokić, Trae Young, DeMar DeRozan, Ja Morant, Andrew Wiggins.
It’s really freaking cool.
And it’s also really freaking expensive.
Wiggins will be a free agent at the end of next season, and I’ve been thinking a lot this year as to what type of contract he’ll get, either from the Warriors or one of the league’s 29 other teams.
He’s shown an ability to grow and adjust his offensive game, while still putting up nice scoring totals. He’s shown comfortably above-average defense. He’s displayed a willingness to fit into a quality system, and take on a secondary or tertiary role within a winning organization — a question that went unanswered during his time with the dysfunctional Minnesota Timberwolves.
It’s been clear for a while that Wiggins will be in line for a rather comfortable contract in the summer of 2023, but being able to add the coveted title of All-Star starter only adds to his eventual bottom line. It gives he and his agent some leverage. It makes him more marketable, and thus makes teams more comfortable making an investment. It increases the chances of a bidding war.
This isn’t to say that Wiggins has priced himself out of the Warriors budget. If they were willing to pay what he’d command prior to last week’s announcement, they’ll be willing to pay whatever he’ll command now.
But oh my goodness will it be a pretty penny.
Not because of Wiggins’ contract per se, but because of the other contracts that Wiggins’ would be stacked on top of.
The biggest issue facing the Warriors with regards to his contract is that Wiggins’ current deal expires before Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, or Draymond Green’s. Which means the first year of a hypothetical Wiggins deal would coincide with the escalating years of the big three.
And that’s a hell of a lot of cheddar.
In the first year of Wiggins’ new deal, Steph Curry will be owed just shy of $52 million. Klay Thompson will be owed north of $43 million, and Draymond Green, assuming he exercises his player option (all but a certainty), will make more than $27.5 million. If the Dubs pick up the club options for James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody, that will be roughly $12 million, $6 million, and $4 million, respectively.
Add all that up, and the Warriors core trio plus their rookie scale trio will be paid $144,772,040.
Right now the salary cap in 2023-24 is projected to be about $121.5 million, with the luxury tax hitting at about $147.7 million.
So the Dubs are, essentially, hanging out at the luxury tax just for the services of Curry, Thompson, Green, Wiseman, Kuminga, and Moody, with nine roster spots still to account for.
You’ll notice a name I’ve abstained from mentioning: Jordan Poole. The Dubs picked up Poole’s fourth-year option, meaning he’ll be entering free agency at the same time that Wiggins does. How much money he’s worth in his first shot at free agency is a bit of a mystery, but if he continues on his current trajectory then it’s safe to say that anything less than $15 million per year would be considered an absolute steal for Golden State.
Let’s hypothetically say the Warriors give Poole a deal worth $15 million a year, and sign seven other veteran deals, rookie deals, and mid-level exceptions averaging a modest $1.8 million.
That puts them at just under $172.4 million, with room for one more roster spot.
In and of itself, that’s not an insurmountable total. The Warriors are paying just under $175.9 million this year, with a lower luxury tax of $136.6 million. That evens out to a tax bill exceeding $170 million, a hilarious total that the Dubs have, thankfully, been willing to spend. And if they feel the results will get them what they got this year, a figure they’ll be willing to keep spending.
But that is, of course, not yet accounting for Wiggins. Given his current trajectory, and the rarefied air he’s now entered as an honest-to-goodness NBA All-Star, it’s safe to assume he’ll be looking to pick up where he left off contractually: which is to say, something starting with a three.
Even $30 million a year, which feels pretty modest (not to mention Poole’s deal also feeling modest), puts the Warriors well over $200 million in salaries, which in turn puts them well, well, well over $200 million in tax payments.
There would be relief after that. Thompson and Green’s contracts expire in the first year of Wiggins’ hypothetical new deal, and Curry’s in the second. If any or all re-sign, it will likely be for less than the max, though their play this year would suggest that they’ve all taken a trip to the LeBron James fountain of ageless wonder. The Dubs would likely be in an OK financial situation, just in time to start thinking about a max extension for reigning MVP Jonathan Kuminga.
One of the more interesting elements here is Poole. He and Wiggins will enter free agency together, with Wiggins being 28.5 years old, and Poole having just turned 24. If the Warriors finances dictate that they must choose between the two, do they opt for the proven All-Star whose best days may be behind him, but who has been the starter on a championship-level team, or the young and exciting bench player who is a bit cheaper, a bit less proven, and whose timeline matches up with Wiseman, Kuminga, and Moody?
The success of the team might hold the answer. Letting Wiggins walk and building around the youngsters is an easy sell if the Warriors repeat last year’s play-in bounce in next year’s season. It’s a much harder pill to swallow if it comes a few weeks after the parade through Mission Bay (and hopefully Oakland), and I can’t imagine Joe Lacob, a man whose wallet size is matched only by his ego, breaking up a championship team over a yacht-sized tax payment.
Win some more rings then, Warriors. Not just for the fun of it, but to ensure that Wiggins has more than just 100 more regular season games in the blue and gold.