NBA AM: Where Do The Warriors Go From Here?

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What’s Next For The Warriors?

Last night, Warriors forward Kevin Durant went down to what was described as a hyperextended left knee when center Zaza Pachulia fell into him while trying to get position for a rebound. Durant immediately limped to the Warriors bench and was taken to the locker-room for further evaluations.

Durant did not return and was put into an MRI last night which is fairly uncommon. Wednesday morning, it was announced that Durant suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain and a tibial bone bruise, and is expected to be re-evaluated in four weeks. He could return in the regular season, though a timetable has not been set.

The Warriors had been moving towards signing recently waived Lakers guard Jose Calderon, who is expected to clear waivers at 5 pm EST today. The Warriors according to reports and sources plan to honor their commitment to sign Calderon, but will waive him immediately after inking the contract ensuring Calderon gets the money promised him when he agreed to exit the Lakers.

The Warriors are then expected to sign recently waived Kings forward Matt Barnes to come in as an injury replacement for Durant, who is expected to miss at least four weeks to this injury.

The Warriors have already locked up a playoff berth, and will be in a position to lock up the division in roughly nine games, as they hold a 13.5 game lead in the division on the LA Clippers.

Some key dates to keep in mind as this injury takes center stage today: The 2017 Conference Finals are scheduled to begin on May 16, which is roughly ten weeks and six days. The NBA Finals are set to begin on June 1, which is 13 weeks and one day away.

The Paul George Conundrum

The Indiana Pacers fielded calls on their best player, Paul George, at the trade deadline last week, mainly because the phone rang. Sources close to the situation were adamant that the Pacers did not make a single outbound inquiry about George in trade, and only listened because it was necessary given his future situation. The same source said that beyond the exercise of listening briefly, the Pacers never seriously entertained a deal for George.

George ultimately was not traded, but that does not mean the situation won’t be re-visited again this summer.

As things stand today, George has two more contract years on his current deal beyond this season, a full guaranteed $19.508 million year next year and a Player Option worth $20.703 million the following year in 2018-19.

George is one of the players to watch this summer, because he could become eligible for the new Designated Veteran Extension if he is named to any of the All-NBA teams. If that happens, the Pacers could offer George a new deal that includes his $19.5 million contract year while adding five more years and some $204 million more in guaranteed money.

For the Pacers, that’s the ideal scenario because it introduces significant money values no other team can come close to offering him.

If George does not make an All-NBA roster, that does not mean the Pacers are out of options. As things stand today, the Pacers are looking at $58.12 million in salary commitments and ample salary cap space. Much like the Rockets and Thunder did last summer with James Harden and Russell Westbrook respectively, the Pacers could opt to renegotiate and extend George’s deal. In that arrangement, the Pacers would increase his $19.5 million contract for next season to the current NBA max for his experience, which would be $30.6 million, giving Paul an additional $11.09 million next season if he’ll add guaranteed years to his deal.

The prevailing thought is that if the Pacers cannot build a bona fide title contender around George, he’ll walk in free agency. This creates a big issue for the Pacers if George won’t extend, because they’d have no choice but to trade him and the return on his situation would be very low, something the Pacers understand after listening to incoming pitches at the deadline.

The Pacers will get something for George if they do indeed decide to move him. The problem is what comes back won’t be anything close to what George means to the franchise, and that’s the biggest reason why the Pacers shut down talks before they really got started.

However, after the All-NBA teams are announced, the realities of the situation will set in for the Pacers.

It’s worth noting that like both Westbrook and Harden, George can opt to take the salary increase of a renegotiate and extend, but only add another guaranteed year or two to the deal. That might end up being the most realistic situation of them all. Where George gets his pay bump, he gives the Pacers time and moves himself into the next tier of NBA experience in the process.

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