As the Golden State Warriors begin their pursuit of a fifth title in nine years, they are also drawing closer to an organization crossroads. How much is Joe Lacob willing to pay to keep this dynastic core intact as the big three of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson age toward the back end of their primes.
With the new collective bargaining agreement becoming even more punitive for big spenders like Golden State, not just by virtue of the crippling tax bills but also in potentially losing access to taxpayer midlevel exception signings, the Warriors could be looking at a payroll north of $500 million, taxes included, if they decide to re-up Green and Thompson on max deals.
And it sounds like that's exactly what they may have to do.
Speaking on ESPN's pregame show Saturday night, Adrian Wojnarowksi reported that Thompson "has an expectation that he would be rewarded with a new max-level contract extension this offseason."
Thompson currently has one more year left on the five-year, $190 million max deal he signed in 2019, and indeed he is eligible to ink an extension this summer. It's hard to say he hasn't earned it. This season, Thompson is again looking like his pre-injury self as just became the third player in NBA history to make over 300 3-pointers in a single season.
That said, the NBA is a futures market. Not just with Thompson, but also with Green, the Warriors -- who, by the way, could be making this decision by way of another general manager as Bob Myers is yet to sign his own extension -- are trying to gauge how bad the back end of these deals could look.
But I just don't think they can let these guys go with the way they're playing, even understanding the risk of a steep decline at some point in the middle of a gigantic contract. Green, who has a $27 million player option for next season but will certainly have suitors this summer that could force Golden State to pay him, showed in Golden State's Game 1 loss on Saturday, as he did all year, that he remains an elite defender and offensive orchestrator uniquely necessary in Golden State's system. Thompson, as mentioned, is back to an All-Star level.
With Curry, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole all locked up long term, the opportunity to keep this title-hunting train rolling is right in front of Lacob. After all his bravado, all his loud intentions to put an elite team on the floor year after year, he will never hear the end of it if he decides to cheap out now, particularly with no real means of replacing these guys.
My guess? Thompson gets his max deal. Or something very close to it. Same for Green. And the Warriors will take two or three more current-core shots, including this postseason, at another ring.