Offseason Outlook: Golden State Warriors

Guaranteed Contracts


Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents / Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • None

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $44,974,902
  • Options: $28,046,000
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $2,659,686
  • Cap Holds: $8,100,000
  • Total: $83,780,588

Of all the pleasant surprises in the NBA's 2012/13 season, the emergence of the Warriors may have been the most entertaining. While some pundits predicted Golden State would earn a low-seeded playoff spot in the West, few – if any – had the team advancing to the second round and giving the Finals-bound Spurs a run for their money before eventually being eliminated.

As this year's results show, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the Warriors. Three-point king Stephen Curry has already been locked up to a four-year extension for significantly less money than the Warriors would have paid had they waited until this summer to negotiate a new deal. Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes will both earn less than $3MM apiece in 2013/14 and remain under contract through 2015 and 2016, respectively. Draymond Green is one of the league's best players on a six-digit salary, in line for a salary worth just $876K next season.

Of course, with just a fraction of team salary committed to many of Golden State's young core pieces, the club isn't exactly maximizing the rest of its money. If they're healthy to begin next season, Andrew Bogut and David Lee figure to be in the Warriors' starting frontcourt, and will make nearly $28MM between them. Both players are solid, albeit much more productive on one end of the court than the other (Bogut on defense and Lee on offense). But Bogut missed significant time in the regular season with injuries, while Lee missed a good chunk of the postseason, and the team didn't necessarily suffer in their absence.

Bogut and Lee may be on big contracts, but you could make the case that neither player is necessarily overpaid. The same can't be said of Richard Jefferson or Andris Biedrins, who will make more than $20MM between them in 2013/14, a year after they scored a total of 200 points in 109 combined games — good for an average of 1.8 PPG. Both players are finally in the last year of their respective contracts, but their presence could seriously hinder the team's ability to make other roster moves.

Consider that Biedrins would have been amnesty-eligible had the Warriors not amnestied Charlie Bell's $4MM salary in an effort to land DeAndre Jordan two years ago. Additionally, Jefferson came over in exchange for Stephen Jackson in the deal that also netted Golden State the first-round pick that turned into Festus Ezeli. Ezeli is a nice young prospect, but I wonder if the Warriors would still do that move, knowing that they could have had an extra $11MM in cap flexibility when Jackson's deal expired this summer (a year before Jefferson's).

Without Jefferson and Biedrins on their books, the Warriors likely would have had the room to comfortably bring back unrestricted free agent point guard Jarrett Jack and power forward Carl Landry, who will likely decline his $4MM player option. Instead, both players' futures are up in the air. Assuming Brandon Rush exercises his own $4MM player option, the Warriors will have $69MM+ committed to 10 players. With the tax line projected to be at $71.6MM, it will be virtually impossible for Golden State to avoid the tax unless the team can shed salary in a trade or fills out its roster with minimum-salary players.

If the team is comfortable going into the tax, re-signing Jack and/or Landry should be doable. Both players, Jack in particular, may be in line for modest raises based on their performance this past year, but I don't think their prices will be exorbitant. If Golden State is willing to push payroll up to the $80MM range and pay the necessary taxes this year, knowing significant money will be coming off the books in the summer of 2014, the team could bring back all of its important pieces for next year. Taking into account further growth from guys like Curry, Barnes, Thompson, and Green, a return to health for the sharpshooting Rush, and the possibility of using the taxpayer MLE to bring in one more veteran, and the Warriors could be a force to be reckoned with again in the West, even with $20MM+ in dead money committed to a pair of players on the end of the bench.

If the Warriors are averse to becoming a taxpayer even for one season, there are plenty of alternative options at their disposal. They'd almost certainly be able to find a taker for Jefferson's or Biedrins' contract if they attached a player like Thompson or Barnes to the offer. But given how well the team's young core played together down the stretch in 2012/13, you'd hope such a scenario could be avoided, and that ownership is willing to pay the price this year for the team's past cap mismanagement, knowing that it doesn't have to be a long-term problem.

Additional notes:

  • When considering whether the Warriors will pay the tax, it's worth noting that the team made a pair of deadline deals to get under the threshold this past season. I don't think that necessarily reflects a permanent philosophy though — it allowed the team to receive the benefits that non-taxpayers do, and if there's a risk of being exposed to the repeater tax down the line, not being a taxpayer this past season could be huge.
  • If it seems like I didn't spend much time talking about potential outside targets for the Warriors, that's because I don't expect that to be a major part of the team's plan. Golden State has no picks in the draft and has 14 players either under contract or with some form of option for next season, so significant turnover is extremely unlikely.

Cap footnotes:

  1. While the team hasn't made any official announcements, it has already been reported that both Jefferson and Biedrins will opt in for 2013/14, so we can essentially consider their salaries guaranteed. Doing so would increase the team's guaranteed salaries to $65,020,902.
  2. Jones' and Machado's contracts are currently fully non-guaranteed. If they aren't waived on or before August 1st, their salaries will become fully guaranteed.
  3. Bazemore's contract is currently guaranteed for $25K, but has no full-guarantee date, so the team won't have to make a decision on him until next January.

Storytellers Contracts and Sham Sports were used in the creation of this post.

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