The Golden State Warriors fielded the most expensive roster to ever step onto an NBA court in 2021-22. Next season, the franchise will do it again.
The Dubs already pay four players between $25 million and $48 million annually. Two of those players, Draymond Green ($25.8 million) and Klay Thompson ($40.6 million) are up for contract extensions next summer. Green has already said publicly that he will seek the maximum contract for which he qualifies. And while Thompson has said he hopes to play in Golden State for life, there is going to be a limit to the kind of discount the Dubs’ front office can expect future Hall of Famers in their mid-30s to accept. Andrew Wiggins ($33.6 million), meanwhile, is entering the final year of his contract this upcoming season.
But the financial pressures don’t end there for Golden State, a franchise that is already staring down the barrel of a $158.7 million luxury tax bill, per Spotrac. Shooting guard Jordan Poole, a budding offensive star in the NBA, will account for less than $4 million of the team’s salary cap next year. In the offseason, he will hit restricted free agency and is expected to command a multiyear deal at a price that begins in the $100 million range and climbs upward from there.
The defending champion Warriors will run it back in 2022-23 behind their leader Steph Curry, who is locked up for the next four seasons. But after that, it’s almost certain that significant change is coming, and Poole is among the most likely of the team’s core group to end up wearing another city’s uniform.
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Poole Legit Sign-And-Trade Candidate For Pacers Next Offseason
Jack Simone of Heavy.com suggested on Monday, August 1, a trade proposal that would flip Poole to the Indiana Pacers in return for Buddy Hield and a first-round pick in 2026, which would be protected should it fall inside of the top 20.
Such a move would force the Warriors’ hand to either match the deal or engage with the Pacers in a sign-and-trade scenario that would allow Golden State to receive assets in return for Poole, in this case Hield and a future pick in the bottom half of the draft’s first round, rather than two less ideal alternatives.
Those two scenarios would be either allowing a young star to leave town for nothing in return, or being forced to pay Poole more money than the franchise can afford should it decide to keep the likes of Thompson, Green and Wiggins all together with Curry.
The cost of the team, both the amounts paid to players and in penalties via the luxury tax, inside of the next couple of seasons could feasibly stretch into the $500 million range, unless the Dubs’ decide to move on from at least one of their highest paid players — such as Poole.
Golden State owner Joe Lacob last month told The TK Show, a podcast sponsored by The Athletic, that there is no scenario in which the franchise will pay that amount to keep the team together in its entirety.
“Those numbers are not even remotely possible. They’re just not. I’m already in trouble with the rest of the league. We are in trouble for being where we are,” Lacob said on July 7. “In fact, Vegas, I’ll be at the NBA Board of Governors meeting Tuesday. Let me tell you, they’re not happy. It’s not just us. Other teams are going into the luxury tax now as well. We kind of blew a hole in the system and it’s not a good look from the league’s perspective. They don’t want to see it happen.”
Poole Makes More Sense as Trade Chip Than Green, Wiggins
Poole may not seem the logical candidate for a Golden State departure given his age, 23, and current ascension within the game’s elite. However, upon scrutinization, he may be the only real choice.
Green has long been the emotional leader and engine of the Warriors’ dynasty. He has been a part of all six NBA Finals teams and all four championship winners. He remains one of the NBA’s premier defensive players and his on-court chemistry with Curry is a thing to behold. It is uncertain if Dub Nation could ever forgive the franchise for parting ways with Green before he is spent as a player, which makes him unlikely to go.
Wiggins might be a more palatable trade chip for the fan base than either Green or Poole, but the on-court case to keep him is hard to argue. Wiggins is a crucial piece for the Warriors’ defense without being an offensive liability. His rebounding in this year’s NBA Finals was a key reason the Dubs persevered over the Boston Celtics and he was a much more reliable player than Poole, as the Celtics were unable to play Wiggins off of the floor. Wiggins is also only 27 years of age, just four years older than Poole, and fits in with the championship timetable of Golden State’s trio of veteran stars.
The Warriors’ decision, when it comes, will be painful no matter what. But the damage to their winning culture would probably take the most minimal hit were it Poole to go rather than anyone else on the expensive side of the Dubs’ roster.