SAN FRANCISCO — The post-party champagne buzz in Boston is still dying down, and a parade is scheduled in San Francisco on Monday to celebrate the Warriors’ fourth NBA title in eight years. But the Warriors are looking forward to free agency starting July 1 with one eye.
This championship proved that, even though the player is in his 30s, the window for rivalry is still wide open. There is pressure on the front office to ensure the roster is well-prepared for operations in 2023 and beyond.
Nine of the Warriors will be free agents, seven without restriction: Gary Payton II, Andre Iguodala, Kevon Looney, Otto Porter Jr., Nemanja Bielica, Damion Lee and Chris Chiozza are free agents. Juan Toscano-Anderson and Quindery Weatherspoon are both restricted free agents.
With Golden State boasting the highest payroll in the league, would owners and management be willing to invest in keeping the team largely pristine? Or will they rely on some of their cheaper lottery picks to cut down on luxury tax spending?
In the 2021 season, the Warriors received $178 million in pre-tax wages and $170 million in luxury taxes, totaling over $346 million on the payroll. They have led the NBA in spending in four of the last five seasons. So the trends tell us that Warriors owner Joe Lacob won’t shy away from spending big. With existing contracts, the Warriors have $171 million before taxes. By their own standard, there’s plenty to spend.
Payton, Looney and Porter, in particular, have been key to the Warriors’ success this season and have expressed a desire to stay with Golden State.
“I always want to come back here,” said Looney, a 2015 first-round pick by the Warriors. “I want to go back and try to defend what we just won and be part of something special again.”
The Warriors own the rights to Bird Looney, which means they have no limits on what they can offer him. Having played all 104 games this year, including the regular season and playoffs, Looney has become one of the team’s most valuable players and their only true center with an injured James Wiseman.
The Warriors also hold the rights to an early acquisition of Payton, meaning the Warriors could offer Payton up to 105 percent of the league’s average salary this season. It will be just over $10 million. Payton said he would “absolutely” want to return to the Warriors next season, but the longtime journeyman, who has hopped between six G-League teams and four NBA teams, is looking for a multi-year deal.
“This time I will choose, I think it will be interesting,” Payton said. “However, I’m looking forward to it.”
Many teams will be interested in Peyton due to his ability to defend the flanks despite his 6-foot-3 height, but the Warriors may feel the need to keep their opening and pay for it.
Porter signed a one-year contract with a minimum veteran contract and shone, his three-point shots tore apart Steph Curry and Clay Thompson. Porter’s non-Byrd rights during this free rein means the Warriors don’t have much to offer him. But they could offer him a mid-range luxury taxpayer exemption that could cost $6 million.
Porter, whose career has been mired in injury, might agree.
“I know this team can compete for another championship again and it would be a great opportunity if I stayed here,” Porter said. “It would be great to be here again with this group of guys and do it all over again.”
Iguodala, 38, has yet to announce whether he will retire from the league or play another season. He missed most of the playoffs and parts of the regular season due to multiple injuries, but his sideline presence was invaluable.
But if the Warriors decide to renew Andrew Wiggins or Jordan Poole — or both — there may be other money to consider flooding the books and squeezing one, if not all, of the more expensive free agent prospects out of the frame.
Also, the Warriors could just change their spending habit and rely on their lottery picks. Jonathan Cuminga and Moses Moody could theoretically take the roles of Porter and Payton, and Wiseman could take Looney’s place for a much lower price.
The Warriors aren’t afraid to spend big, but a lot of factors can’t guarantee that the entire team will return to the title.