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The Price Of The Golden State Warriors’ Dynasty

As the Warriors enjoy their third championship in four years, let’s take a look at how they are going to try to keep this team together.

Right now the Warriors are celebrating. Their dominant conclusion to the NBA Finals made Golden State just the seventh team in NBA history to win three titles in four years. They deserve to revel in their entrance into the dynasty conversation for the next few weeks, but they’ve already made it clear they aren’t satiated.

In a few months, the Warriors will begin what they hope will be a fifth straight year of Western Conference supremacy, a feat many dominant teams have failed to accomplish. LeBron James left Miami after four seasons (and potentially the same with Cleveland). The early-2000s Lakers won three straight but slowly crumbled after 2002. Even Michael Jordan and the 90s Bulls had a two-year gap between three-peats.

If the Warriors win the West again in 2019, they will become just the second team in history to make five-straight NBA Finals. Four straight has happened five times — including the 2015-18 Warriors and Cavaliers — but only the 60s Celtics were able to return for that fifth time (and then the sixth, and seventh, and eighth).

The Warriors are going to have the talent to get back to the NBA’s biggest stage, but they are going to have to pay for it. Well, Joe Lacob is going to have to pay for it and it’s not going to be cheap. The luxury of competing for titles at a discount is gone.

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SB Nation

At this time last season, Golden State’s primary goal was to properly compensate Steph Curry. And they did, quickly, to what was the largest contract in NBA history.

Once they sorted Curry out they turned to Kevin Durant, who made everyone’s lives easy by taking less to ensure the Warriors could bring back both Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. This year, odd parade jokes aside, the Warriors are going to give Durant whatever he asks for.

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Once Durant signs, the Warriors will turn to a number of smaller, but important, free agent decisions.

As much fun as they had the year, neither JaVale McGee nor Nick Young will likely return next season. Both the 34-year-old Zaza Pachulia and the 37-year-old David West will contemplate retirement this offseason and while there’s a chance West could return for the minimum, it’s probable that neither is on the roster next season.

With those four spots likely changing, the main unknowns are Patrick McCaw and Kevon Looney. McCaw’s situation is pretty simple. He’s a restricted free agent who says he wants to return and the Warriors have indicated they’re interested in bringing him back. If the price is right, McCaw will be a Warrior next season.

Looney, on the other hand, is more complicated. The Warriors declined his fourth-year option before the season, making him an unrestricted free agent this summer. Looney proved in the Playoffs that he provides real value to the Warriors, and Golden State might be regretting their preseason decision right now. If they can bring Looney back for cheap they will, but there’s a good chance another team pushes him out of the Warriors’ price range.

So if everything goes as expected, the Warriors will have a payroll pushing $180 million with just 11 players on the roster (Damian Jones will likely fill one of the open spots). It should be difficult for the Warriors to fill those holes with talent, but Golden State has established a pretty clear plan to keep their roster fresh.

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Carlos Avilla Gonzales - San Francisco Chronicle

The first of those spots will be filled with whoever the Warriors select 28th overall in next week’s NBA Draft. Rookie contracts are the easiest way to fill a roster with young, affordable assets, and the Warriors should be able to sign that player to a deal worth between $1.5-2.0 million per year.

In free agency, the Warriors’ main tool for adding talent will be the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (MLE). Even though the Warriors will enter July massively over the cap, the Taxpayer MLE allows Golden State to sign a free agent for a deal worth about $5.2 million (or they can split it between two/three players). Over the past two years, the Warriors have used the MLE on  Zaza Pachulia and Nick Young respectively.

Once the roster is filled, the Warriors’ cap hold will be creeping up near $200 million. After you factor in all of the taxes, Lacob and co. will be left with an unprecedented bill, but it’s one he’s willing to pay (for now). Next summer, those questions might get a little more interesting.

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With Durant likely to sign another short-term deal this summer, there’s a good chance he once again enters free agency 12 months from now. Today he has every intention of staying in the Bay Area long-term, but there’s always a chance he feels differently about his future/legacy a year from now.

While Draymond Green’s contract runs through 2020, his reluctance to sign an extension is a small red flag that may grow over the next couple years. The most plausible explanation is that Green just wants to maintain his flexibility and set himself up for a Super-Max down the road, but there’s always a potential for frayed relationships with his penchant for emotional flare-ups.

The real issue next summer, though, will be Klay Thompson. Thompson will be a free agent in 2019 and, even though the Warriors want to extend him now, Mychal Thompson has said his son will enter free agency next year. Like Green, Thompson is looking to maximize his next contract by waiting, but there’s always the chance that the allures of other franchises could pull him away from the Warriors.

But the unknown wildcard in the Warriors’ future isn’t a player on their current roster. Much as in the 2015-16 season with Durant, rumors have begun to bubble about the Warriors being interested in acquiring Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis.

The Warriors would love to add Davis in any scenario (minus trading Curry or Durant). But if the worries grow that Thompson or Green are going leave in free agency — or if GS is hesitant about over-paying them — the Warriors may push even harder. Trade rumors have ruined many a relationship between a star and his team, so it’s worth watching for tensions between Thompson or Green and the Warriors over next season.

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The good news for Warriors fans — and bad news for everyone else — is that Golden State can keep this going for the foreseeable future if they wish. With the ability to continually reload the bench with rookies and veterans, the Warriors can refresh the supporting cast around maybe the best core in NBA history. As long as ownership is willing, wanting, and able to pay the highest luxury tax bill in history, the Warriors will be able to stay the Warriors.

A year from now, their future may look drastically different. It’s impossible to predict what problems and opportunities will arise between now and then. But for the moment, the Warriors are going to relax, enjoy their championship, and slowly begin their fight for another.

Edited by Emily Berman.

Which player currently holds the record for largest contract in NBA history?
Created 6/13/18
  1. Stephen Curry
  2. Russell Westbrook
  3. LeBron James
  4. James Harden

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