The No. 2 overall pick might be Golden State's most well-known trade asset, but perhaps its most important is a trade exception acquired last summer, when it dealt Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies. Trade exceptions can be used to absorb contracts in trades without sending back commensurate salaries. The Warriors didn't take back any money in the Iguodala trade, so they got a trade exception worth his entire 2019-20 salary of just under $17.2 million. With so many teams looking to shed salary in the wake of the coronavirus-induced revenue losses, that exception could have netted the Warriors a very valuable player.
But right now, the expectation is that the Warriors will not use that exception, allowing it to expire early in the offseason. The Athletic's Anthony Slater reports that it would have to be a "special opportunity" to convince the Warriors to absorb a contract into that slot. While a $17.2 million player would help almost any team, few stars exist in that salary range, and trade exceptions cannot be aggregated with player salaries, so in all likelihood, using that exception would only yield a high-level role player. That is hardly a special opportunity.
It could be a missed opportunity, though. The Warriors are fairly thin after years of building top-heavy rosters around Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Durant is gone now, replaced by Andrew Wiggins, and aside from the No. 2 overall pick, the only other true keeper on their roster is 2019-20 rookie Eric Paschall. How he, or a top rookie, would operate in the playoffs is unknowable at this point. A starting-caliber veteran would make a big difference to their depth.
But Golden State's financial situation is extremely precarious. The Warriors opened Chase Center this season, an absolute cash cow of an arena, but without fans attending games that shiny new building isn't generating revenue. That will force Golden State to survive primarily off television revenue. The national TV deal is fixed, and income generated by it will only depend on how many games are played. The real issue for Golden State is its local TV deal, which was signed during the 2010-11 season, and is therefore archaic by modern standards. Remember, the Warriors hadn't even drafted Thompson or Green by that point. Curry was not yet a two-time MVP, and the Warriors weren't perennial contenders. Their negotiating position has improved significantly since then, but that hasn't been reflected in their revenue because they've been locked into their old deal.
That's a problem, because Golden State already has quite a bit of money committed to its roster this season. The combination of Curry, Thompson, Green and Wiggins alone is owed over $130 million, almost as much as the $132.7 million luxury tax figure from last season. The Warriors at least managed to duck below the tax line last season in the D'Angelo Russell trade, saving themselves from the repeater tax penalty, but cash is going to be tight for Golden State this season. Reports from the summer suggested that ownership wanted to raise $250 million through loans to help stem the tide against losses brought on by the pandemic.
Golden State still has ways of adding talent without using that exception. The No. 2 pick is likely being shopped alongside Wiggins and a valuable 2021 pick from Minnesota for another superstar. The Warriors will have the taxpayer mid-level exception of around $5.7 million to spend in free agency. But all indications are that the Warriors would like to avoid delving too far into tax territory. The pandemic is keeping them from going all in on a 2021 championship.