Warriors owner Joe Lacob on paying luxury tax next season: No choice

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The Warriors have $78,772,757 committed to David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry, Shaun Livingston, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Brandon Rush and Festus Ezeli next season.

Even if they fill the rest of their roster with minimum-salary players, they’d eclipse the projected luxury-tax line of $80.7 million.

Of course, they don’t want to fill their roster with just minimum-salary payers. They surely want to re-sign Draymond Green and exercise Marreese Speights’ $3,815,000 team option.

It’ll get costly, but it sounds as if Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are ready to foot the bill and let general manager Bob Myers keep the team together.

Lacob, in a Q&A with Tim Kawakami of Talking Points:

Are you prepared to go into the tax next summer to keep this team together?

-LACOB: Committed or not committed, I don’t think we have any other choice. Numbers would dictate–anyone can look at them–that we’re very likely in the luxury tax and very likely very substantially, next year.

And you know what? We’re OK with that. I tell Bob all the time; he keeps asking me, ‘Are you sure?’ We’re prepared to do whatever it takes to win a championship; I’ve said that before.

You want to do it when the timing is right. Maybe the timing’s right, right? We’re pretty good. And so, I think we need to take advantage of that and go for it.

-Q: So you’re re-signing Draymond Green?
-LACOB: Draymond Green! I’m not allowed per NBA rules as you know to make certain statements about who we’re going sign or how hard we’re going to try to sign that person.

What I will say is, he was born to be a Warrior. And we love him. I certainly think today as we look at our team, he’s part of our core and can’t imagine it being otherwise.

Lacob could announce his intention to re-sign Green – you can’t tamper with your own team – but his statement implies enough.

So, how much will this cost him and Guber?

Let’s create a scenario and assume the projected tax line sticks:

  • The Warriors get the No. 30 pick in the draft and give him the standard 120 percent of scale
  • Rush exercises his $1,270,964 player option
  • Golden State exercises Speights’ $3,815,000 team option
  • Green re-signs for a starting salary of $11 million
  • The Warriors sign two minimum-salary players

That roster would cost a whopping $128,335,643 – $96,614,269 in salaries and $31,721,374 in luxury-tax payments.

The Warriors could try to save money by letting Speights loose, trading their first-round pick or making some other deal. Trading Lee, who is set to make $15,493,680 on the final year of his contract next season, would be ideal and could even sneak Golden State under the tax line. But other teams won’t rush to pay Lee.

Lacob’s statement suggest the Warriors, who owe Utah their 2017 first rounder as a result of a previous salary dump, aren’t willing to send out the sweetener necessary to move Lee. If they were, paying the luxury tax wouldn’t be so inevitable.

Golden State has never paid the luxury tax, so no repeater penalties would apply, and this is unlikely to trigger a run of repeat-penalty-inducing tax seasons. With Lee’s contract off the books in 2016 and the salary cap set to skyrocket under the new national-TV contracts, the Warriors should have plenty of leeway. Only the 2015-16 season is sticky.

But if Lacob and Guber are willing to pay the luxury tax to get the team over the hump, Golden State fans should be thrilled. This is the exact time to pay the tax, when the team is contending.

It’s hard to see what would derail the Warriors this season. If the luxury tax isn’t an impediment, it’s hard to see what would derail them for coming seasons, either.