There are no perfect models for every high-profile player’s looming free-agent experience. Anything can happen at any time in the NBA marketplace, especially when there are massive salary cap implications, roster holes and a certain amount of pride involved. A surprise move or impulsive decision can cause 10 unanticipated ripple effects that can trigger 50 other reactions and 5,000 bluffs and threats.
All-Stars dance on the head of a pin, waiting for the trades and dollars to flow.
So yes, anything can happen in the next few days now that Draymond Green has signaled his intention to decline his player option for the upcoming season and hit free agency. He could stay with the Warriors on a new deal, which new Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr., owner Joe Lacob and head coach Steve Kerr have all said the team would like to see happen. Draymond could leave for huge money. He could leave for less money than the $27.6 million he would have been paid in 2023-24 before opting out. Or, if the Warriors agree, Draymond could be signed and traded to a team of his choice. Who knows.
The window for free agents to negotiate with other teams opens at 15.00 on 30 June. Unofficial discussions have already been going on for weeks now, I imagine. Draymond and the Warriors have been free to negotiate with each other for a long time, and there has been no deal. It’s all unpredictable.
But … there is one negotiation and outcome from not too long ago that seems to have a lot in common with Draymond’s current situation and could be a harbinger of the most likely path for a current resolution. Let’s go back to July 2017, weeks after the Warriors’ second championship of the Stephen Curry era and the first with Kevin Durant, and when Andre Iguodala’s first four-year contract with the Warriors had just expired.
Back then, Iguodala was 33 (same age as Draymond is now), had his market limited by his age and the limited number of teams with significant cap space (like Draymond now), was probably more valuable to the Warriors than anyone else (like Draymond is now) , knew this was likely his last shot at a big new deal (like Draymond now) and had every right and desire to seek enough leverage to push for every dollar possible as a reward for his contributions to multiple Warriors titles and his importance for the next few years if he stayed.
Like Draymond right now.
In 2017, all signs were that Iguodala wanted to stay with the Warriors, that Curry wanted him to stay with the Warriors, and that the Warriors wanted and needed Iguodala to stay. But… things got complicated when the negotiations got serious. There were moments when Iguodala thought he was going to leave. There were moments when the Warriors probably thought he was leaving. There were threats. It was played hard from both sides. And eventually, Iguodala returned to the Warriors on a three-year, $48 million deal, squeezing an extra $6 million in guaranteed money from the Warriors during the last few days of intense negotiations.
I think Draymond’s negotiation could go like this. I think it already had some of those elements. I think it will probably have even more drama and already have higher stakes because Kerr has stated the truth that the Warriors are not title contenders this season if Draymond leaves. That gave Draymond some more leverage, and he already had a lot.
But what Draymond doesn’t have is a clear option — all of the teams that could theoretically be good spots for him either don’t have anywhere near enough cap space to sign him outright or don’t seem to have the kind of talent and chemistry, that would suit his arrival. That’s exactly what happened with Iguodala in 2017, so he and his agent created alt-options by getting the limited Rockets to talk about a sign-and-trade option and hinting that Iguodala would sign with the Kings or another cap-space team if the Warriors didn’t play ball.
It was a bit of a scam. The Warriors had no reason to feel pressured by a sign-and-trade threat when they would have had to accept it. But they also didn’t want to provoke Iguodala into leaving out of spite. They didn’t want to spoil the golden moment. So they upped their offer and got Iguodala back. No one regretted it.
If Draymond’s negotiation goes roughly or almost exactly the same, if threats are made and sign-and-trade teams move into place and eventually a re-signing with the Warriors, let’s just say it’s probably the way it was determined to go.
• How could dollars work? The Warriors would love to have Draymond come in for something even a tiny bit less than his originally projected $27.6 million for 2023-2024. For example, a $2 million drop from that figure would be significant given the multipliers applicable to the Warriors as tax repeaters.
In exchange for Draymond accepting a starting salary of around $25.6 million, the Warriors could stick around two more years to make it something like three years total, $83 million, which averages out to, guess what, $27.6 millions. That would save the Warriors about $14 million on their tax dollars for next season and net Draymond an extra $57.4 million.
Maybe my numbers are too high in this assessment. Maybe they are too low. I do not know. It is unpredictable. To a point.
• I also think it will be very difficult for Draymond to leave Curry. I said that about Bob Myers and he left anyway, but it turned out differently because Myers was itching to go and Draymond was itching to stay and ride out the rest of this era. Of course, there’s no way Curry would want Draymond to accept a below-market offer from the Warriors. That pressure actually works the opposite way — the pressure is on Dunleavy and Lacob to pay whatever it takes to keep Draymond by Curry’s side.
And from everything I’ve heard (including the big offer Lacob made Myers to try to get him to stay), the Warriors have the dollars to keep most of this together for at least one more season.
• Another sign the Warriors aren’t in teardown mode: If Chris Paul is waived after he’s officially traded to the Wizards in the Bradley Beal deal, I’ve heard the Warriors would most likely check in with CP3 and give him the shot to go after a championship with Curry, Draymond, Klay Thompson and the rest.
The Lakers and Clippers are both likely well ahead of the Warriors in any future race to land CP3 in that scenario. But the Warriors would at least call. I think that would be an interesting call too.
• A key note from The athletic’s Shams Charania: Thanks to some increased revenue, the ’23-24 cap and tax lines bump slightly higher than recent projections, immediately cutting the potential repeat tax penalty next July for teams like the Warriors.
• Unless they make a big cut somewhere, though, the Warriors are still looking at a huge tax bill next season — even higher than last season, when their payroll came in at over $191 million and their tax bill added more than $170 million for something close to a $370 million commitment for a team that didn’t make the second round.
My scribbled sketch for the upcoming season, which counts Draymond at about $26 million, has the Warriors with about $203 million in salary commitments for 11 players. After the Warriors fill their roster with at least three minimum salaries, the tax bill alone would be close to $200 million.
My understanding is that the Warriors believe they can get their total well under $400 million without a drastic talent cut. We’ll see. But with some careful accounting… maybe. Either way, for now the Warriors are definitely locked into the highest penalty spot, well above the dreaded second apron, which starts at $17.5 million above the $165 million luxury tax threshold.
• The ultimate goal, I’m told, is to get out of the second apron by this time next year. That’s when the new CBA’s toughest restrictions go into effect. The Warriors haven’t used their mid-level exception much over the years, but they lost it this year due to their second-apron status (and therefore have no chance to re-sign Donte DiVincenzo when he opts out of his contract) and would like the taxpayer MLE back next July.
The Warriors know they can get under the second apron next offseason. They know that their paycheck is basically built that way: if they don’t do something, they’ll get there. But by doing nothing, they will do something that will reverberate across the league.
Yes, the Warriors could play out Klay Thompson’s final contract season (at $43.2 million) and then let him walk next offseason as a free agent or re-sign him at greatly reduced numbers. That would get the Warriors out of the penalty box, just like that. If they let Klay go for nothing, it could take them out of the luxury tax entirely.
Or they could clean up their books right now and trade him this offseason, though I think that scenario is highly unlikely.
• The bottom line is that the Warriors can get out of second place with a potentially controversial but very direct move next offseason. They might not use it. No one told me they planned to let Klay go next summer. In fact, some Warriors people say they want him for many more years. And they don’t have to make that decision until next July.
But until then, that’s why the Warriors and Klay haven’t negotiated an extension to this point, and why they almost certainly won’t sign one this offseason. There is no reason for Klay to take a discounted extension right now. He could fuel the Warriors by delivering a great season and hitting free agency like a toast in the NBA market. If he does, he will earn every last dollar and laugh. But the new CBA is set up to force big-spending teams to make tough decisions about star veterans, and the Warriors’ biggest decision could come in about 12 months.
Slater: What’s buzzing around the Warriors as draft night and the offseason approaches?
• My overly simplistic take on the prospects for the Warriors’ pick at 19 in Thursday’s draft: They’ll aim to take a player older than the pick’s number. After going with a number of talented but raw teenagers the last few drafts — James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Ryan Rollins — the Warriors could use a little more experience from this pick. A little more potential to get into the rotation and help Curry right away.
Fortunately for Dunleavy and his staff shop, the first round looks like some solid 20-somethings are available in the Warriors’ lineup. And sometimes it’s the best place for these kinds of players anyway; the soaring teenagers typically go in the lottery and smart teams later in the round can occasionally find skilled, experienced players.
Look at the way Christian Braun, the 21st pick in last year’s draft at the age of 21, stepped in and made key baskets for the Nuggets during their title run while providing solid defense. (Of course, there’s a big downside to that, as the Warriors know after taking Jacob Evans IV with the 28th pick in 2018 despite his low upside because they thought he could help them right away. Oops: out of the league after a few seasons. It’s not easy. None of this is easy.)
• Some of the more veteran Warriors: UCLA forward Jaime Jaquez (22), Indiana guard Jalen Hood-Schifino (20), Santa Clara guard Brandin Podziemski (20), Iowa forward Kris Murray (22) and Connecticut- gardener Jordan Hawkins (21).
• As Kerr noted on my podcast last month, the playoffs underscored a major Warriors problem: They need more guys who can create and make shots. The Warriors struggled on defense for most of the regular season, but turned that side around as they reached the first round of the playoffs. Offensive? Only Curry played really well when the postseason started. They could use another playmaker or finisher.
Which now has me wondering about the pure Podziemski, the create-space-and-shoot Jaquez and the versatile Murray in particular.
(Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)