It’s not a favorite topic among Warriors fans, no doubt. But it is a reality the franchise faces, one that has become more prominent as players age and the numbers for the team’s luxury-tax bill skyrocket. Eventually, the team’s Big 3 of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are going to split, and it’s possible not all three will end their careers as Warriors.
Curry is a sure bet to remain with the Dubs for as long as he wants to play. Green has lost a bit from his offense but is still an outstanding passer who is crucial to the Warriors’ defense. Everyone loves Thompson for his style of play, his grit in returning from two catastrophic injuries, and his quirky personality.
But if we’re being honest, we’d have to admit: Thompson is the most replaceable of the three guys, especially with young wings Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga raring for more playing time. Thompson has two years left on his contract, worth $40.6 million next year and $43.2 million the following year, and could find himself a prominent player in a 2024 free-agent class with a reasonable amount of available cap space.
So we asked a Western Conference executive about Thompson’s future, and we picked a few teams (again, we picked them, not him) that made sense.
Klay Thompson Won’t ‘Want to Leave Voluntarily’
Here’s his overall view on Thompson:
The first thing is, he is not going to want to leave there voluntarily. If you ask around the league, I don’t think there are many players who are happier in their situations than Klay Thompson is in the Bay Area, playing for the Warriors. But they have tough decisions and if one of the decisions is that, after this contract is up, they let Klay walk, he should have some choices. I think, sentimentally, they are going to keep him but if you are talking about losing (Jordan) Poole or (Andrew) Wiggins or even Draymond (Green) in order to keep a 34-year-old Klay Thompson, if you’re making the decision strictly on basketball, you know … you’d have to let Klay go.
And they could justify it. It’s not like they’ve treated Klay badly—they gave him almost $200 million a couple weeks after he tore his ACL and they knew he would be out for a year. Maybe he’d take a big discount to stay, he is a little off-beat like that, I am not sure getting every penny he can is what drives him.
But sure, look, if they let him go, even at 34, he is going to have teams who want him.
Kings, Lakers, Blazers for Klay?
Now, which teams might those be? Educated guesses:
There is a proud tradition of Warriors stars who go on to play for the Sacramento Kings, from Mitch Richmond to Chris Webber, Harrison Barnes to (ahem) Kent Bazemore. The Kings have also raided their NorCal neighbors for coaches, the latest being Mike Brown. Five of the Kings’ last six coaches were alums of the Warriors’ staff at one point in their careers. Why not Thompson?
Exec: “They do not get a lot of free agents, obviously, but if Klay did not want to go too far from home, they would welcome him and probably pay him. They will have cap space and they will need shooters. They need attractions, too. He is all of that. But you know, it’s the Kings and if they are not winning by then, it would not be easy to get him there.”
Los Angeles Lakers
Thompson was born in L.A. and returned to Southern California for high school. His father, Mychal Thompson, was a solid role player for the Lakers and helped them win back-to-back championships in 1987 and 88. It just so happens that the Lakers, who last week signed LeBron James to a two-year extension with an option on the 2024-25 season, are likely to have ample cap space in 2024.
Exec: “That would be fun, if he could play out the rest of his career where his dad won a ring. Not sure he would leave the Bay Area if he did not have to but if he had to pick a place, it’s a good bet he’d want to go to L.A. If they were to keep LeBron and (Anthony Davis) together and add Klay, it is a mix that makes a lot of sense as long as Klay can continue to be a plus defender and a 40% 3-point guy.”
Portland Trail Blazers
Thompson spent his high school years in L.A. but he spent his formative years in Lake Oswego, Oregon, just outside Portland. And when it came time to go to college, he chose to return to the Pacific Northwest and attend Washington State.
Exec: “That would be tough because Portland might not have much money depending on what they do with (Jerami) Grant and I just don’t know how competitive they’ll be with (Damian) Lillard at 34, 35 years old and making $50 million a year. If he is going to leave the Warriors, he is still going to want to win. If Lillard bounces back, I like it for him. Big ‘if,’ though.”
There’s no personal connection to Thompson with the Bulls, but in terms of how he fits with the team on the floor, he’d be a sensible fit. Chicago should be looking to retool around Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball in two years, with the contracts of DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic (even with an extension) likely up by that time. A younger target makes sense but an ace floor-spacer would be of the utmost importance, and Thompson probably will still be that.
Exec: “They have a short window with the current group and they know that. I’d expect they would look at 2024 as an opportunity to drop somebody in next to LaVine who can keep things going. Does Klay want to go to Chicago and freeze in the winter? Can he put that boat in Lake Michigan? Doubt it (laughs). But those guys would love playing with him.”