The Golden State Warriors are well aware that winning in the NBA does not come cheap, but their upcoming decision on Draymond Green’s extension may prove to be their most difficult one to date.
Last season, the Warriors paid over $360 million in luxury tax dues, though it turned out to be worth every penny after they won their first NBA title since 2018.
That number is expected to balloon after this next campaign given the league’s repeater tax provisions. Golden State could end up paying over $560 million in wages plus taxes combined come the ‘23-’24 season – five times the $112 million salary cap this past year – if they do decide on extending Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, and Klay Thompson for their fair market value.
While last year’s number was still palatable for the Warriors’ majority owner Joe Lacob, all indications are that he is not willing to go much deeper into his pocket books. Although Golden State’s core is still under contract for the fast approaching ‘22-’23 season, the choices that they make in the next few weeks for these aforementioned extension eligible players will have immediate ramifications to their season.
The most polarizing dilemma that faces them is the one surrounding Draymond Green.
The 32-year-old forward has clearly declined in recent years, albeit he still managed to make his first NBA All-Star team since 2018 this past season with the Warriors among the leaders in the Western Conference standings. He averaged 7.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.1 blocks in the regular season and put up more or less the same numbers in the playoffs.
Green’s athleticism is no longer what it used to be, yet he has used his court smarts to remain one of the most versatile players in the league. The 6’6 forward remains the heart and soul of Golden State’s defense and his playmaking abilities are a major cog in their free flowing offense. He was their leader in rebounds, assists, and blocks per game last season.
Unfortunately, despite all of the pros that he brings to the table, the cons have begun to catch up to Green. In particular, opponents have capitalized on his growing reluctance to shoot and defenders often help off him given that this has turned him into a virtual non-threat. He was infamously benched down the stretch of their crucial Game 4 victory in these past NBA Finals to help free up their spacing which was a harsh reality check for the four-time NBA All-Star.
These growing concerns have fed into the team’s hesitation to give him the four-year, $138.4 million maximum extension that he has reportedly demanded that will pay him until he is 37 years old. If nothing is agreed upon over the coming weeks, Green will have the option to become a free agent after this season and test the demand for his services around the league.
The stance of the Warriors here is justified from a pure basketball perspective, but the peripheral consequences may eventually force their hand into giving him what he desires.
Playing alongside the more timid Stephen Curry and Thompson, the much bolder Green has become their de facto vocal leader in the locker room. He has helped mentor their younger players and all indications are that he is their glue guy. Furthermore, it has been said that Curry views himself, Green, and Thompson as a package deal and will not be too pleased if their Big Three is broken up one way or another.
The happiness of Curry, who has proven that he is still one of the best players in the league today, should be a priority for Golden State – especially when considering that he is still under contract for the next four years. In addition, choosing not to give Green what he wants is a risky move for their immediate prospects and an unhappy version of him could potentially cause enough chaos to derail their title defense.
For all intents and purposes, it seems like Lacob and the rest of his ownership group have been cornered. Keeping this group that has already won them four titles and has the potential to win ever more will come at a steep cost. If they choose to be thrifty, they risk putting this franchise’s glory days to a premature end.
Signing Green to a maximum extension will never be considered one of the best value deals in the league, yet for a team that wants to continue competing for championships, it may very well be worth every penny in the end.