Kevin Durant is reportedly willing to accept less than a max contract next season.
That, ironically, could get very expensive for the Warriors.
Golden State would need to clear cap space to pay Durant his max – the system working as intended to limit spending. But if Durant takes less than his max, the Warriors could operate as an over-the-cap team, sign players like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston with Bird Exceptions and spend into the stratosphere.
Just how high could Golden State’s payroll get next season? Let’s make a few assumptions:
- The luxury-tax line is the projected $121 million
- Durant opts out and re-signs for the Non-Bird Exception ($31,848,120 starting salary)
- Stephen Curry re-signs on a designated-veteran-player contract (more than $35 million projected starting salary)
- Iguodala re-signs for a starting salary of $18 million
- Livingston re-signs for a starting salary of $9 million
- Zaza Pachulia re-signs for the full Non-Bird Exception ($3,477,600 starting salary)
- Ian Clark re-signs for the full Early Bird Exception (about $6.5 million projected starting salary)
- David West re-signs for the full Non-Bird Exception ($2,794,382 starting salary)
- JaVale McGee re-signs for the full Non-Bird Exception ($2,540,346 starting salary)
- Golden State keeps its players already under contract (Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney, Damian Jones and Patrick McCaw)
- The Warriors use the full taxpayer mid-level exception ($5,192,000 starting salary)
- Golden State rounds out its roster with a minimum-salary player
That’d give the Warriors a payroll of about $155 million and a luxury-tax bill about $106 million – a total of about $261 million.
For perspective, the Cavaliers are in line to spend about $151 million this season, about $127 million on salaries and about $25 million in luxury tax (rounding explains the seemingly incorrect math).
Now, this is obviously a rough projection, and the Warriors won’t be forced to spend so much. Maybe Golden State re-signs Iguodala or Livingston for less or lets one walk. I doubt the Warriors use the full taxpayer mid-level exception, especially if they keep both Iguodala and Livingston. Golden State might also view Clark as more of a luxury than it could afford. Pachulia and McGee could seek more elsewhere and be replaced by minimum-salary players.
But if Durant is taking a discount, it’s not to save Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber money. It’s to help his team win. Durant shouldn’t take less unless the owners commit not to scrimp around the edges – and that could lead to a monstrous payroll.
The Lakers clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
LeBron James, via Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:
“They said I couldn’t do it.”
“I’ll enjoy this one,” James said, nodding as he grinned. “They said I can’t do it.”
The Lakers entered the season fifth in the West in over-under wins (behind the Rockets, Clippers, Jazz and Nuggets).
But nobody credible thought the Lakers couldn’t get the No. 1 seed. With LeBron and Anthony Davis, the Lakers obviously had that type of upside. Their championship odds were far more favorable. The main doubts stemmed from how seriously LeBron would take the regular season.
That said, in the age of social media, players hear both more praise and more criticism than ever before. LeBron surely heard from haters who ruled him out. Crowning himself the Washed King, LeBron probably internalized that fringe opinion.
Many players find slights to use as motivation. It worked for Michael Jordan. It works for LeBron.
But it does sound silly when an exalted player like LeBron talks this way.
Paul George said he left the Pacers because they weren’t willing to spend enough.
Apparently, he wasn’t the only one to feel that way.
Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president in 2017, citing a desire to do more things outside basketball. Yet, he also reportedly had another reason.
Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:
Indiana is a small-market team that consistently has not gone out and paid big money. We know that this was something that frustrated Larry Bird, who is a legend in the state of Indiana and elsewhere, I might add. It frustrated him enough that he stepped aside.
Pacers owner Herb Simon has a certain way of doing things. Indiana hasn’t paid the luxury tax since 2006, the first year the tax line was set before the season.
Despite that, the Pacers have been pretty good. They’ve qualified for the playoffs nine of the last 10 seasons, peaking with appearances in the 2013 and 2014 Eastern Conference finals.
Still, Indiana has lost in the first round four straight years. Another first-round loss appears the most likely outcome for this season.
That’s not exactly satisfying for players who want to win championships. Spending big isn’t absolutely necessary to compete on the highest levels. But it helps.
Pacers star Victor Oladipo is approaching 2021 unrestricted free agency. He’s a competitor who’ll evaluate, among other things, whether his current franchise matches his ambitions.
It’s easy to spend someone else’s money. Simon can decide his own limits. But there are consequences of his spending restraint – especially as perception grows about his relative thriftiness.
J.J. Redick has made the playoffs all 13 of his previous NBA seasons.
The Pelicans have put that streak in jeopardy.
New Orleans lost its first two games in the bubble, a nail-biter against the Jazz and a rout against the Clippers. During that loss to L.A., cameras captured Redick – on the floor exercising his back while out of the game – with a distant stare that became an instant meme.
Redick on ESPN Daily:
I was angry we got our butts kicked. It’s embarrassing, and I think my face summed up that first half pretty well.
There’s so many circumstances you could apply the emotions that I was going through in that moment.
Redick is right: That meme fits many occasions, which gives it staying power.
However, it has plenty of competition. Though the feelings displayed aren’t the exact same, Redick didn’t even have the best reaction inside the bubble by an exasperated NBA player. That belongs to Nuggets star Nikola Jokic:
At least Redick got reason to perk up. The Pelicans beat the Grizzlies yesterday to gain ground in the playoff race.
Darren Collison shocked the NBA last summer when he walked away from the game at age 32 — and a likely contract in the four-year, $70+ million range — and retired. His reasons were legitimate, he wanted to focus on his religion — “While I still love basketball, I know there is something more important, which is my family and my faith,” Collison said at the time — but the league has seen a lot of players say they were walking away for good reasons only to come running back.
The rumors about a Collison return started just after January 1 and spun out of control in Los Angeles when he sat with Lakers’ owner Jeanie Buss at a game.
Collison stayed retired, and told the “Minute til 6” podcast it wasn’t even close. He was never coming back.
“To keep it 100, they overhyped the whole thing. Like, I wasn’t even thinking about coming back.”
That game he went to? He just came to watch his friend Russell Westbrook.
“I just wanted to come watch the game as a fan.”
Collison also is smart enough to know how him sitting with Buss would be perceived.
Collison was wanted. The Lakers run LeBron James at the point but could have used the veteran Collison in the role Rajon Rondo filled as a secondary playmaker (Rondo is currently out with a thumb injury). Collison was rumored to the Clippers as well, and Doc Rivers can always find a way to use more guard depth.
Collison, however, seems at peace with his decision. If he wanted to return, he would have done it last summer for 10 figures a season, not for the minimum in January.