The Golden State Warriors run to a fourth title in eight years was defined by greatness on the court. An MVP-caliber season from Steph Curry. The reminder that Draymond Green is the best defensive player in the world. A breakout All-Star campaign from Andrew Wiggins. The emergence of Jordan Poole. The return of Klay Thompson. The defense of Gary Payton II. The unbreakableness of Kevon Looney.
The beauty of well-executed basketball.
Yet while the Warriors on-court product was remarkable, the off-court product was just as admirable. In a sport full of teams — particularly good ones — having drama and tension, the Warriors had none. Despite Green having a reputation for being intense and getting into it with teammates. Despite Wiggins and Jonathan Kuminga carrying concerns about work ethic and attitude into their Warriors careers. Despite Thompson shooting the ball seemingly every time he touched it for the first month or two after his return. Despite Wiggins almost missing the season due to vaccine hesitancy. Despite a cast of young, inexperienced, and likely immature players paired with a veteran, championship core.
There was no drama. The players were calm. They were selfless. They got along well. And everything flowed smoothly, for which they all deserve credit.
Will it flow smoothly this year?
Wiggns and Poole stood in the commotion of the locker room, soaked in champagne, and took turns gassing each other up about how much money they’re going to make after their respective breakout seasons on a championship team.
It was so wholesome, so genuine, so selfless. I dare you to watch it and not smile like a goon.
"WE bout to get a bag."— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 17, 2022
Poole and Wiggins are ready to get PAID
(via jordan_poole/IG) pic.twitter.com/76PDuegnRJ
They’re right. They are about to get a bag. Wiggins will be an unrestricted free agent next year, after establishing himself as an All-Star starter on a championship team who can play lock-down perimeter defense. He’ll be looking for a contract similar — and probably larger than — the max rookie extension deal that he’s currently finishing up, which paid him nearly $148 million over five years. Poole will be a restricted free agent next year, after proving himself as a highly efficient scorer who is one of the bright young stars in the game. He’ll have his eyes on exceeding the four-year, $100 million deal that Anfernee Simons recently signed, and the four-year, $104 million deal that Jalen Brunson landed.
Just to complicate matters, Green, who can opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent with Wiggins and Poole, reportedly has his eyes on a max contract. And just to make things a little messier, Steph Curry reportedly sees himself, Green, and Thompson as a packaged deal, and won’t be happy if the Warriors are unwilling to pay Green.
The result is that something likely has to give. The Warriors are unlikely to enter the 2023-24 season with the massive contracts of Curry, Thompson, Green, Wiggins, and Poole all in tow. And the players — who understand the cap situation, and see the reports — surely know this.
These situations usually go one of two ways. The bad way is when they lead to resentment and unnecessary competition. The worst case scenario is Wiggins and Poole freezing each other out slightly, each wanting to prove that they’re the more valuable player, deserving of the large contract. It also involves them upset at Green for his lack of offensive output, or Green upset at Poole’s defense, or Wiggins’ stagnancy on offense. Tensions build on and off the court, as players start playing for themselves instead of for each other.
But the good way is when they lead to an even greater sense of community. The players, sensing they have the chance to do something special, come together for a last hurrah of sorts. The caring and selflessness that Wiggins and Poole exuded in the aftermath of the Game 6 win carries through for another year, with the players understanding that they’re all going to accumulate generational wealth in the offseason — it just won’t all be from the same employer.
The latter seems much more likely. This team is selfless, and they have a common pursuit: a championship. They have veteran leadership that includes arguably the most selfless superstar in NBA history, and a master manager of personalities in Steve Kerr.
The Warriors have earned our trust in this regard. But it’s certainly a storyline to watch heading into the season.