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USATSI

The Golden State Warriors aren't just the most expensive team in the NBA. They are far and away the most expensive team in the history of North American professional sports. The Warriors are paying their players roughly $176 million, but as a repeat luxury tax offender, they will also owe over $170 million in tax payments. That's a total expenditure of $346 million. The Los Angeles Clippers were the NBA's second-most expensive team this season and they came in at around $250 million. Only the Clippers, Nets, Lakers and Bucks spent even half as much as the Warriors did this season, and the rest of the NBA isn't thrilled by that.

ESPN's Zach Lowe reported earlier this week that "rivals are already grumbling about Golden State's competitive spending advantage," but as Warriors general manager Bob Myers sees it, his team is merely operating within the confines of the rules. "I think on that point, you should be allowed to spend on your own players," Myers said in an interview with 95.7 The Game's "The Morning Roast". "I mean, we drafted a lot of these guys, we developed them. It's not like we went out and signed all these guys as free agents and built some team that way. Larry Riley's the guy that drafted [Steph] Curry, I was here when we drafted Klay [Thompson], we drafted Draymond [Green], we drafted [Jordan] Poole, we traded for [Andrew] Wiggins. Nobody wanted Wiggins, I mean nobody was saying anything then."

Myers is technically correct. His Warriors are built around three home-grown superstars. They have a fourth major salary slot belonging to Andrew Wiggins that originally came when Kevin Durant joined the team thanks to the 2016 cap spike, but that spike likely would have existed either way. The Warriors could have retained Harrison Barnes on a max contract as a restricted free agent with full Bird Rights, and it should be noted that they actually had to excise major salaries in Andrew Bogut (for Durant) and Andre Iguodala (for D'Angelo Russell, who turned into Wiggins) for the sake of certain additions. The Warriors are not the George Steinbrenner-era New York Yankees. They can't and don't outbid other teams for stars through sheer financial might. They generally find their own players and simply choose to continue re-signing them.

But Joe Lacob's willingness to pay to do so is rare by NBA standards. Just look at those four teams spending at least half as much as the Warriors. The Clippers shed roughly $30 million in salary and luxury tax payments by dealing Serge Ibaka at the deadline. The Nets have made a number of financially driven decisions in recent years, including bypassing the taxpayer mid-level exception in 2020 and giving up draft picks to trade DeAndre Jordan in 2021. The Lakers let Alex Caruso walk over money. The Bucks did the same with P.J. Tucker.

The Warriors generate a significant amount of revenue through their new arena, the Chase Center, but plenty of teams would simply pocket that revenue as profit. Others make less money on their arena, but make up for it through enormous local television deals (with the Lakers serving as a notable example here). Golden State may have significant revenue streams, but its willingness to reinvest that money back into winning is something that should be praised. Other teams could do so and choose not to.

Things are only going to get more expensive for the Warriors after their NBA Finals matchup against the Celtics. Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr. and Kevon Looney will all be free agents this offseason. Jordan Poole is eligible for a contract extension. Wiggins expires after next season. ESPN's Bobby Marks estimates that their combined payroll and taxes could reach $475 million if they keep the entire team together. No other NBA team will come close to that number, but it's worth nothing that no rules actually prevent the Warriors from doing so. While there are certain mechanisms that can trigger a hard cap, there is not a defined upper limit on salary spending. By retaining their own players and only adding expensive new ones through trades, the Warriors are essentially free to spend as much as they'd like so long as they don't violate any other rules of the CBA.

And that appears to be the track they're on moving forward. Myers recently made it clear that the Warriors planned to re-sign Poole. Who else they choose to keep is more of a mystery, but Lacob has made it clear that he's willing to pay top dollar for talent. If other teams aren't willing to do the same, well, that's their problem.