The Golden State Warriors may very well be on their way to their second straight NBA championship as the team holds a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The team also appears to be poised for title contention for the foreseeable future with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green all at or nearing their physical primes.
One of the characteristics that has made the Golden State Warriors so dominant over the past few seasons has been their remarkable team chemistry, which trickles down from their stars all the way down the entire roster. But over the next twelve months, general manager Bob Myers will have some tough decisions to make regarding his roster while attempting to keep the gang together.
For starters, the Warriors were able to accumulate a lot of their role-playing talent because of Curry’s relatively inexpensive deal in relation to his talent level. Green and Thompson were also at one point playing on extremely cap friendly (i.e. rookie) deals. But things have changed. Curry is on the verge of being maxed out in 2017 and Green and Thompson have already cashed in on very lucrative deals.
In the future, there will be less money to go around for some of those supporting cast of characters that have helped to make the Warriors so potent. Forward Harrison Barnes will enter the summer in all likelihood as a restricted free agent. With the salary cap expected to increase significantly, Barnes is expected to cash in on a deal that could pay him roughly $20 million per season. While the Warriors have publicly stated retaining Barnes is one of their priorities, at the end of the day the team may opt to let him walk in free agency with so many teams possessing excessive money to burn.
Reserve center Festus Ezeli is also headed to restricted free agency this summer and while the big man’s overall season averages won’t jump off the page at you, his size and athleticism will undoubtedly intrigue teams in the market this summer looking for interior help.
So with Barnes and Ezeli looking to cash in this summer, next summer the Warriors will have even more decisions to make with Curry hitting free agency. Also hitting free agency in 2017 will be veteran center Andrew Bogut and 2015 NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. Both of those guys are currently earning eight figure salaries per year. Bogut and Iguodala have served as the perfect complementary players and are strong reasons why the Warriors have been successful.
The team was able to absorb these veteran eight figure salary guys because they’re young core of Curry, Green and Thompson were all on rookie deals or inexpensive contracts compared to their overall ability and production.
But now with Curry, Green and Thompson making max-level money or soon to be making max money, the job for Myers and company gets tougher to build and retain the talent pool for the franchise. Not to mention that in the summer of 2017, veteran guard Shaun Livingston will also become an unrestricted free agent. Livingston’s comeback story is one of inspiration on how he was able to overcome a near career-ending knee injury and develop into one of the best guards off the bench in the league.
But with Livingston having already experienced his own athletic mortality, and the understanding that he’s playing on a knee that was once shattered, it’s fair to question whether Livingston will opt for financial security in his next deal or will he be content with possibly providing the Warriors with a bit of a discount due to their overall success as a team? At the end of the day money talks, and you can expect a guy like Livingston to be in high demand if he’s able to maintain his health over the next year.
On the surface the Warriors are seemingly built to last, but the team’s front office has their work cut out for them trying to maintain talent and chemistry, while balancing the cost of acquiring new talent to fill out the edges and keep the team running smoothly.
The Warriors are poised to be title contenders for years to come, but whether they can continue adding titles to their mantle will come down to how the team handles the inevitable changes to its current roster.
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