Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees and more will be covered as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.
- Leandro Barbosa: One year, $2.5MM. Signed via taxpayer mid-level exception.
- Ian Clark: One year, $947K. Signed via minimum salary exception. Partially guaranteed for $474K.
- Draymond Green: Five years, $82MM. Signed via Bird Rights.
- Acquired Gerald Wallace and Chris Babb from the Celtics in exchange for David Lee. Babb was subsequently waived.
- Acquired Jason Thompson from the Sixers in exchange for Wallace, $1MM in cash, and the right to swap Golden State’s 2016 first-round pick with the lesser of the 2016 first-round picks that the Heat and the Thunder owe Philadelphia.
- Jarell Eddie — Waived.
- Ben Gordon — Waived.
- Xavier Henry — Waived.
- Tony Mitchell — Waived.
- Juwan Staten — Waived.
- Chris Udofia — Waived.
Rookie Contract Option Decisions
Teams that win 67 regular season games and the NBA championship usually have little room to improve. The 2015 offseason and the start of the 2015/16 season provide strong evidence that the Warriors are the exception to the rule.
Golden State has started 12-0 in spite of the absence of Steve Kerr, who was perhaps the team’s most significant offseason addition in 2014. That Luke Walton, who was no better than third in command last season behind Kerr and former top assistant Alvin Gentry, has been able to pilot the Warriors without a hiccup thus far is testament to the system Kerr put in place but more so to the Warriors front office, a collaborative group with GM Bob Myers in the lead role. Myers, the reigning Executive of the Year, delivered an encore performance as the team accomplished the two most critical player personnel tasks it faced this past summer.
The first was to secure Draymond Green for the long term. Little doubt existed, even amid rumors that tied him to his home-state Pistons, that the B.J. Armstrong client would remain with the Warriors, by dint of Golden State’s ability to match all competing bids in his restricted free agency. The questions were whether he would sign directly with the Warriors or with another team on an offer sheet, and just how close he would come to the maximum salary. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports raised the notion that the Warriors would prefer that if he signed for the max, he do so via offer sheet, thus absolving themselves of first-hand blame if Green were to end up making more than Thompson, who conceded to slightly less than the max on the extension he signed in 2014.
The Warriors wound up avoiding such a thorny scenario when Green somewhat surprisingly agreed to a deal with the Warriors that totals some $12MM less than the max over five years. Green was willing to take a discount to help keep the team together in the face of a mounting tax bill, as Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group heard shortly before the start of free agency, but apparently the former 35th overall pick and the Warriors had their differences about just how much he should sacrifice. Regardless, Green’s value continues to escalate. He’s shooting 40.4% on 3-pointers after last season’s career-best 33.7% mark, and he’s suddenly become the team’s leader in assists, with 6.9 per game, almost double last season’s average of 3.7. Time will tell if those numbers are sustainable, but the 25-year-old has shown vast improvement with each passing year, and it looks like that trend will continue. He’s no longer the colossal bargain he was when he was making the minimum salary, but the Warriors are probably still underpaying him.
The opposite was true for the man Green replaced in the starting lineup last season. An offseason David Lee trade seemed inevitable as he disappeared from the rotation. If his sudden re-emergence in the Finals cast any doubt on that idea, it vanished mere hours after the Warriors won the title, when Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported that the Warriors and Lee’s reps had agreed to work together to find a new home for him. ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported shortly thereafter that the team’s cut of gate receipts from its run to the Finals were vast enough that the team would see fit to trade him and take a lesser salary in return rather than simply trading him into another team’s cap space and taking no salary back. That was fortuitous for the Warriors, since apparently no one made them an offer that would have taken his entire salary of almost $15.494MM off their hands. The Knicks and Lakers reportedly considered trading for the Mark Bartelstein client, but ultimately it was the Celtics who did so in a deal that took nearly full advantage of the salary-matching cushion and cleaved about a third of Lee’s salary from Golden State’s books. That was only step one, however.
It seemed almost obvious in the immediate wake of the deal that the Warriors would waive Gerald Wallace, whom they acquired in the Lee trade, and spread his salary via the stretch provision, a tool they couldn’t use with Lee because he signed his deal prior to the 2011 collective bargaining agreement. Stretching Wallace would have pushed the majority of his salary, and the associated tax burden, off to future seasons, when the tax threshold will be higher in accordance with the rising cap. Instead, the Warriors clung to Wallace and deftly flipped him to the Sixers in a trade that achieved the dual ends of lowering the payroll and adding a productive player. Essentially, the Warriors parlayed Lee into Jason Thompson through a pair of moves that saved Golden State nearly $8.6MM in salary and an estimated $22.1MM in luxury tax payments. The collateral costs were minimal: $1MM in cash to the Sixers plus a pick swap that only comes into play if the Heat or the Thunder end up with a better record than the Warriors do. Chris Babb came in the deal with the Celtics, but his salary was non-guaranteed and he didn’t make the Warriors out of training camp.
The primary benefit was financial, as Golden State has yet to find much of a need for Thompson in its already-stacked rotation, even though Andrew Bogut missed time with a concussion. Still, Thompson is at the ready, and while he lacks the offensive pop of Lee, the ex-King was a double-figure scorer three times with Sacramento and can capably perform should the need arise. He ultimately represents an insurance policy with a more sensible premium for Golden State. His salary also makes him a handier trade chip if such an opportunity presents itself.
The Warriors weren’t quite as frugal when they brought back Leandro Barbosa for $2.5MM this season. Clearly, Myers and company wanted to keep as much of last season’s roster as possible, even if it meant shelling out more than what it was worth for a 32-year-old who was out of the league for much of 2013/14, the season before he first joined Golden State. Barbosa saw just 14.7 minutes per game in the regular season and 10.9 in the playoffs last year. It’s possible that the Pelicans, reportedly likely to have interest thanks to Gentry, drove up his price, but even so, the Warriors might have found a better use for the roughly $1.5MM difference between what they’re spending on Barbosa and what they would be shelling out on a minimum-salary deal. That $1.5MM triggers an estimated $5.625MM in extra taxes.
First-round pick Kevon Looney, by contrast, costs only slightly more than the veteran’s minimum this season, so it made sense for the Warriors to keep their pick and use it on a player who would sign this year rather than going the draft-and-stash route. Looney is expected to miss about half the season after August hip surgery, but the Warriors nonetheless have a prospect they can develop once he gets healthy, and Green is a conspicuous reminder of how players drafted with a pick in the 30s can blossom.
The Warriors mastered the elusive art of building a championship roster. The task that began this summer is to sustain it, and they’ve so far proven just as adept.
Eddie Scarito contributed to this post. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of it.