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How trading for Chris Paul sets the Warriors up for future offseasons

Trading Jordan Poole for Chris Paul makes the Dubs better next season, but it also sets them up for the coming offseasons.

LeBron James Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Six Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors made their first big splash of the offseason, trading guard Jordan Poole, guard Ryan Rollins, a 2027 second-round pick, and a protected 2030 first-round pick to the Washington Wizards for guard Chris Paul. While all the focus is immediately on how this impacts the Dubs chances at winning a title this coming season, assuming Golden State doesn’t turn around and trade Paul for another large contract, he’s given rookie general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. an avenue to be significant players in the 2024 free-agent class.

Paul is set to make $30.8 million this coming season but has an entirely non-guaranteed $30 million salary for the 2024-25 campaign. With Draymond Green’s future uncertain and only one year left on Klay Thompson’s contract, the Dubs have less than $115 million in salary on the books for the 2024-25 season. That number could shrink even more if Gary Payton II declines his player option or the team declines their team options for Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, or Kevon Looney (Looney doesn’t have an option, but most of his salary is non-guaranteed), although none of those scenarios seem likely.

Real GM currently projects the 2024-25 NBA salary cap to come in at $142.8 million with a $173.25 million luxury tax line. With that in mind, the Warriors now have a path to clearing a max salary spot next offseason. While that gets harder if the Warriors do re-sign Green to a deal worth somewhere around $25 million per season, they could still create $20-$30 million in space, more than enough to make a splash, by offloading some combination of Payton, Looney, Kuminga, or Moody.

Jaylen Brown, Domantas Sabonis, Pascal Siakam, and Dejounte Murray highlight the group of players currently slated to become free agents after next season. However, stars like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Jrue Holiday, and OG Anunoby all have the potential to hit the open market if they decline player options.

Most of those players will likely command max salary contracts, which is difficult for the Warriors to manage if they re-sign Green (unless they were willing to trade Andrew Wiggins or Green next summer), but could an aging star like James or George view $20-$30 million and an opportunity to chase another ring alongside Curry as an enticing offer? It seems more than reasonable.

There’s another, less sexy, way Paul’s contract gives the Warriors long-term flexibility. Assuming the Warriors waive Paul after next season, which is basically guaranteed barring an exceptional campaign from CP3, it basically ensures they can avoid the new second apron of the NBA’s luxury tax.

Under the old CBA, eclipsing the luxury tax line only cost Warriors ownership money and gave them access to a less valuable mid-level exception. The new CBA, however, introduced far more draconian punishments for teams that do so. If Golden State had retained Poole, there was essentially no path for them to re-sign Green and extend Thompson on sizable without eclipsing that line. Now, they could retain both of them without pushing the second apron.

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