There’s been a little confusion lately about whether Klay Thompson is seeking the maximum salary in extension talks with the Warriors or an amount that would be a shade beneath it, but his father this week attempted to clear that up, insisting that his son is indeed going after the max. So, the Warriors face tough a decision between now and the October 31st extension deadline, since co-owner Joe Lacob apparently has reservations about paying Thompson any more than the roughly $15MM salaries that David Lee is set to make this season and next.
It’s not clear at this point just how much a maximum-salary extension would entail, since the maximums for 2015/16, when the extension would kick in, won’t be known until next July. A five-year maximum extension, one that would make Thompson the team’s Designated Player, would come in at around $85MM based on this year’s figures, while a four-year max would run about $66MM. Still, this year’s figures aren’t necessarily as indicative of next year’s as they normally would be. The salary cap is projected to jump to around $66.5MM for next season, a sizable uptick that doesn’t take into account the league’s new TV deal that’ll kick in come the summer of 2016. If the league decides to fold even a fraction of that money into the 2015/16 cap, the number will go higher still. Maximum salaries are tied to the salary cap, so a lot is unknown.
The luxury tax line is another X-factor that won’t be resolved until the league sets the salary cap, and it’s of particular concern to the Warriors. Golden State has about $56.1MM in commitments for 2015/16, not including a nearly $3.9MM team option on Harrison Barnes that the Warriors will almost assuredly pick up. That’s $60MM on the books without a new deal for Thompson or Draymond Green, whose contract is also set to expire at season’s end. This year’s tax line is $76.829MM. Lacob has spoken of a willingness to pay the tax in the right circumstances in the past, but he’ll surely attempt to avoid it if he can.
The owner has promised to strike a deal with Thompson, though he didn’t specify whether it would be an extension or a new contract in restricted free agency next summer. The Warriors took a hard line against including Thompson in Kevin Love trade proposals that otherwise met the demands of the Timberwolves, and it would surely sting the Bay Area if Thompson were to hit the open market and somehow get away.
I predicted in late July that Thompson and agent Bill Duffy would settle for a discount and laid out the reasons why when I examined the shooting guard’s extension candidacy the next month, but in hindsight, it doesn’t sound like they’ll be willing to do so. Absent a change of heart, the onus is on the Warriors to figure how to secure an asset they clearly value. Let us know how you think Golden State should proceed, and explain your choice in the comments.