If there was hope that the Golden State Warriors would hastily secure the return of two of their top free-agency targets, that hope seems to be flying away.
Per Anthony Slater and Sam Amick of The Athletic (behind a paywall):
“As the first day of free agency nears a close, distance remains between the contract desires of Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II and the willingness from the Warriors to meet that number, sources told The Athletic. In particular, the odds that Payton departs the Warriors are rising rapidly, with the internal belief they are likely to lose him.”
Per the article and Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, Payton II’s biggest suitors and leading candidates to pry him away from the Warriors are the Portland Trail Blazers:
Gary Payton II has drawn a strong offer from the Trail Blazers among other suitors, sources said. I’m told Portland has the richest contract, roughly $8M, out to the versatile defender, but still mutual interest in Payton’s return to Golden State. Bruce Brown another POR target.— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) July 1, 2022
The Trail Blazers seem to desire Payton II’s perimeter defense, something they’ve been lacking throughout the Damian Lillard era. Coupled with his ability to act as a play connector and finisher on offense, he would be a welcome addition to Portland.
That is, unless the Warriors manage to convince Payton II — through financial and/or cultural means — to stay.
Since the Warriors hold Payton II’s Early Bird Rights, they can easily match or outbid the Trail Blazers. The question that remains, however, is how willing Joe Lacob is to pay the exorbitant tax bill that will come his way if the Warriors successfully retain Payton II and Looney.
Through early bird rights the Warriors can offer Gary Payton II up to $10,843,450 so they shouldn’t be outbid by anyone, but the question will be how much they’re willing to commit due to tax implications.— GSWCBA (@gswcba) July 1, 2022
Looney’s contract a factor as well. https://t.co/ZivRBXDG0b
Assuming they both return to the Warriors for the amount they allegedly desire, the aforementioned tax bill — already the most expensive in the league — will increase to an unprecedented amount.
If the Warriors retain Looney at $10M and GP2 at $8M, then fill out the roster with two vet mins, Ryan Rollins, and leave the 14th spot open they’re looking at a roster cost of $410M ($196M salary + $214M tax)— GSWCBA (@gswcba) July 1, 2022
Every additional dollar on that is counted at x7.25 for tax.
The hold-up in negotiations with Looney seem to involve the market of high-value role-player big men. The Dallas Mavericks signed JaVale McGee to a three-year, $20.1 million contract using their taxpayer mid-level exception. Ivica Zubac re-upped with the Los Angeles Clippers for three years, $33 million.
Looney and his representation could be using such numbers to set his value accordingly. As much as possible, the Warriors are looking to save every dollar they can shave off of their tax bill.
Meanwhile, Slater and Amick also dropped this nugget concerning Otto Porter Jr.:
This could work out well for the Warriors financially, who are also still in the running for Otto Porter Jr., currently contemplating a return to the Warriors on the veteran minimum or more money elsewhere.
This doesn’t mean to say that Porter Jr. will willingly take less money than what he could make elsewhere to return to the Warriors. A career-40% shooter who can crash the boards and who is a good team defender is a valuable commodity — one that other teams are willing to open their wallets for.