When the Warriors took Klay Thompson off the table in trade talks for Kevin love this summer, the team put itself in a position to where it had no choice but to give him a max contract — either an extension before the Oct. 31 deadline to do so, or one once he hit restricted free agency at the conclusion of this season.
But Golden State was able to save even more money by not signing Thompson to a true max contract the way the NBA defines it.
Klay Thompson’s new deal is not a max contract, despite having been reported as such, per sources familiar with the matter. The first-year salary in a true max contract is set as a percentage of the cap rather than a straight dollar figure — a 25 percent share of the cap for most players coming off rookie contracts, with 7.5 percent annual raises from there.
Had Thompson signed a true max contract, we wouldn’t know his precise salary, since we don’t know the salary-cap figure for the 2015-16 season — the first in Thompson’s fat new deal. The league has projected the 2015-16 cap at about $66.5 million, and under that cap number, a Year 1 maximum salary for Thompson would come in at about $15.5 million. But if the cap shot up higher than that, Thompson’s salary under a true max contract would shoot up with it.
The Warriors have protected themselves from such a scenario by giving Thompson almost the exact dollar-for-dollar equivalent of a max contract under the $66.5 million cap scenario — but doing so outside the confines of a maximum contract, per several sources familiar with the matter. In other words: Thompson’s contract sticks at four years and $69 million regardless of what happens to the 2015-16 cap between now and the start of next season.
There’s a fair bit of uncertainty as to just how high the salary cap will spike once revenue from the league’s monster new broadcast rights deal hits in advance of the 2016-17 season.
But none of that money is expected to affect the cap next year, making the Warriors’ move to potentially save a few bucks likely to pay only the smallest of dividends.
By the way, Thompson is living up to his new deal from a performance standpoint — he’s leading the league in scoring with an average of 29.7 points per game through his team’s first three contests, all of which were victories.