In the last few weeks, the Warriors appear to have gotten religion when it comes to the NBA’s luxury tax. The Knicks are making an attempt to take advantage of the Warriors’ situation but they’ve so far fallen far, far short of the mark, according to league sources.
Golden State has tested a variety of ways to slip under the tax threshold ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline and could shed some role players to do so. But if the Warriors want to keep auditioning the parade of young players they’ve brought in over the course of this wasted season, the easiest thing to do is ship out point guard D’Angelo Russell.
With Steph Curry having missed most of the season with a broken hand and Klay Thompson out as he recovers from knee surgery, the Warriors have willingly sacrificed this season to focus on developing young players. They’re focused entirely on next year.
That’s where the Knicks have come in. Or at least, they’re allegedly coming in. New York has tried to stay involved with the Russell dealings but a package built around Frank Ntilikina, Bobby Portis and another player has not even registered with the Warriors.
“There’s not much to take seriously there,” one source said of the Warriors’ view on the Knicks’ offering. “It’s hard to say if the Knicks are involved because they want Russell or because they want to show their owner and their fans they’re doing something. It’s not serious yet, not at this point.”
Knicks Need to Enhance Russell Offer
To make a deal for Russell viable, the Knicks would need to include, at least, their 2020 first-round pick. New York currently has the fifth-worst record in the NBA. That would give the Warriors to good chances at the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. The Knicks have no intention of trading rookie guard R.J. Barrett but the Warriors would want either forward Kevin Knox or center Mitchell Robinson in the return package in addition to the pick.
The Timberwolves were the team in hottest pursuit of Russell. Minnesota wants to assuage star big man Karl-Anthony Towns by acquiring a perimeter threat, and it helps that Russell is a close friend of KAT.
There aren’t many other teams in the mix for Russell and that’s one reason the Wolves are reluctant to give up multiple first-round draft picks to Golden State. If the Warriors’ only other realistic choice on a Russell trade is a dud package from the Knicks, then the Timberwolves obviously have the upper hand.
The Warriors have the option of passing on a Russell deal, though, and revisiting it after the season. But there’s no telling whether there will be a compelling package available then. If it can collect draft picks here at the deadline, Golden State could enter the spring with a coffer of assets to use in a trade for a player who would fit with Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green.
Warriors Eager to Use Trade Exception
The Warriors’ goal, too, is to avoid the tax, which would save the team money. More important, though, it would allow the team to take advantage of the perks of being a non-taxpaying team, which includes the ability to use a trade exception.
The Warriors are sitting on a massive exception now, worth $17 million, which they acquired when they sent off Andre Iguodala to the Grizzlies. Golden State can absorb salary into exception as long as they are below the tax line. The exception expires a year from the date of the trade, which will be July 7.
That’s the day after the league’s July moratorium is up. That means Golden State will have one day to use the exception or lose it forever. But if the Warriors can’t get below the tax before then, it’s a moot point. They can’t use the exception while they’re over the tax.
So the Warriors are earnestly looking for a trade to knock them under the tax line. The Wolves would be in good position to pull that off in a deal centered around Andrew Wiggins and two first-rounders.
New York’s package is not even close to that. The Knicks want to be in on the Russell conversation, too. But they’ll need a much better offer to get there.