In case you missed the latest news about the Golden State Warriors, owner Joe Lacob recently said something that was equal parts surprising and not surprising. The not-surprising part? He expects Klay Thompson to be on the roster beyond this season, which is the final year of his deal. The surprising part? Lacob seems optimistic that a contract will be agreed to before the upcoming NBA season begins, rather than after the season.
Talking with The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami, Lacob — who doesn’t always disclose information, but when he does it’s usually very transparent — said that “We’re going to try to do something here for the rest of his career,” and while he didn’t outright say that they’re hoping to get a deal done before Opening Night, the implication was clear: that’s the expectation right now.
The assumption I had was that the team wouldn’t work on an extension. I have fully expected Klay to retire a Warrior for many years now, but waiting until next summer to hammer out a new contract always seemed most likely to me. The reason? Thompson’s performance last year was nowhere near that of the money he’s making ... yet he very much still has that player inside him, and I’m sure is extremely confident that he’ll return to it this year. It’s not wild to suggest that the gap between what the Warriors think Klay is worth and what he thinks he’s worth is well into the eight figures. Usually when that’s the case, you play out the year, see who’s right (it’s usually somewhere in the middle), and go from there.
But the reason to not let him reach free agency is crystal clear, too. The Dubs have first-hand experience as to how much looming contract situations can negatively impact the team. We’ll never fully know what happened last year, but the fact that Draymond Green, Jordan Poole, and Andrew Wiggins were all set to enter free agency together — for a team that loved but could not afford all three — was undoubtedly a source of much tension. Years before, the spat between Green and Kevin Durant was focused, in large part, on KD’s insistence on signing one-year deals, signaling a lack of long-term dedication.
No one will question Klay’s dedication, but an issue would potentially loom nonetheless. We know the Warriors would not let Thompson walk — he’s a franchise legend whose jersey will one day hang in the Chase Center rafters while his statue resides outside the building, and getting rid of him is perhaps the only thing the team could do to tempt Steph Curry to force his way out. But the Warriors have a contract decision to make next offseason with Chris Paul, and Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody will reach free agency the next year. Could tension form in the locker room if Klay is outperformed by teammates who know that the front office will prioritize re-signing him? Entering the year with the future already decided will take that largely out of play.
So with all that said, where might the two sides land if they do bang out a deal before the season starts? Let’s start with the obvious part.
The obvious move for the Dubs is to give Thompson a three-year extension, which would keep him in the Bay for at least the next four seasons, through 2026-27. Why is that the obvious move? Because that’s the same timeline as Draymond Green.
A three-year extension means the Warriors will keep their Curry-Klay-Green triumvirate together through at least 2025-26, when Curry’s deal is up. If they extend Thompson for more than three years, then he’s under contract past when Curry and Green’s deals expire, which seems unlikely.
And they can’t extend him to match Curry’s timeline, because extensions have to be a minimum of three years. I had that crossed out tidbit incorrect, as I was conflating it with the rule that only allows players to be extended if they’re on a deal of at least three years. Either way, I would expect that Thompson would want a contract that lines him up with Green, making a three year deal — perhaps with an option year — the logical end point.
Now, onto the harder part.
I was thinking about this topic for a while before Lacob’s quote. You could view the money aspect of a hypothetical Thompson deal a lot of ways. On the one hand, Thompson has always been a staunch advocate for, and believer in himself. Prior to his last deal, he wasn’t exactly secretive about his belief that the Warriors needed to pay him. He hasn’t usually been a discount guy, and who can blame him? He’s practically printed profits for his billionaire owner. He deserves every penny that comes his way, and then some.
On the other hand, Klay has never seemed greedy, money-hungry, or power-hungry. He’s always just wanted to be properly respected. The last time he was a free agent, the Dubs signed him to a five-year, $190 million contract that critically paid him $32.7 million in the first year — a year that the team knew he would miss all of when he signed it. And then, of course, Thompson ended up missing another year-and-a-half with a second injury. So seeing that token of respect from the front office — willing to pay him tens of millions of dollars for a lost season, and banking on him recovering from one of the worst injuries in sports to still be worth nearly $40 million a year — might have taken the desire to chase every dollar away. Thompson seems much more comfortable with how the organization values him now than he did five years ago, something Lacob hinted at when he said, “We love him, and I know he knows we love him.”
There’s also the matter of the players around him. The last time Thompson was in search of a new contract was after the Warriors had thrown themselves at Durant in hopes of keeping around the cherry on top of the sundae that Thompson helped build. Now things are different. Green and Wiggins recently took reduced paydays without testing the market, while Kevon Looney — someone Klay praises at every turn possible — remains wildly underpaid. You can bet your butt that Thompson is well aware of these things.
Lacob’s informed optimism that a deal will get done soon points to compromise from both sides but, in my eyes, probably points to a little more compromise from Thompson than from the team, though that has to be adjusted for inflation and the fast-rising salary cap.
If a deal gets done before October 24, my money’s on something quite similar to what Green got. I’ll say three years and $75 million.
What’s your bet?