It seems Tim Kawakami and Marcus Thompson of The Athletic are doing something similar with Paul George and Golden State.
Marcus and I have teased this for more than a year. We think they’re going to go after Paul George, somehow. I think Joe Lacob is going to try to find a way to get Paul George. I don’t know how that would happen, but I didn’t know how it was going to happen when they were – three years ago, when they said they were go after Durant. Well, they didn’t say it. But they might have whispered it.
The Warriors could have had George already – if they would’ve traded Klay Thompson to the Pacers. But there’s obviously a huge difference between acquiring George on an expiring contract and signing him outright in free agency next summer.
As far-fetched as Golden State landing Durant seemed, the impending salary-cap spike always made it plausible. The Warriors had to dump Andrew Bogut and let Harrison Barnes walk, but that was small potatoes for getting Durant.
Signing George would almost certainly require very large potatoes.
A little perspective: The salary cap projects to be $102 million next summer, but it won’t be determined until then. Even if they trim their roster to just Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the Warriors wouldn’t have enough cap room to pay George his max unless the salary cap eclipses $118 million. The NBA’s salary-cap projections can fluctuate, but a $16 million increase within a year is nowhere near heard of. And that would leave just the room exception – which would be about $5 million in this scenario – for Kevin Durant, who would have presumably opted out. He might be taking an unexpectedly large discount this year, but that’d be a monumentally large sacrifice by Durant next year.
More realistically, Golden State could use Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston to sign-and-trade for George. But that’d require appeasing the Thunder, no easy task. The Warriors would also have to stay below the hard cap – which is barely feasible, unless George and/or Durant take large discounts. Even then, it’d be a tough squeeze.
Golden State could also try to trade for George before the trade deadline, acquiring his Bird Rights then spending any amount to re-sign him and Durant. But Oklahoma City would have even more leverage than the offseason. How could the Warriors entice the Thunder? If good enough, Oklahoma City might not be at-all willing to deal Russell Westbrook‘s co-star. (This could be a reason Westbrook has yet to sign a contract extension. If he waits to re-sign until next summer, he implicitly demands the Thunder not sell during the season – or leads to them trading Westbrook, too).
If George hits free agency, Golden State’s realistic chances of landing George likely evaporate. The Warriors would probably have to trade one of their top four players to get George. But doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose?