The Golden State Warriors may claim their second NBA title in three years.
And the Nets may claim some of their players this summer.
Heading into 2017-2018, the Warriors face the tightest of salary crunches, essentially because they have non-bird, rather than Bird, rights to Kevin Durant.
The short of the matter is that if Kevin Durant wants the max of $36.1 million, or any number above $31.8 million, then the Warriors will lose Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, unless either is willing to take a substantial paycut. As for the details, if Durant signs as a non-Bird free agent (they do not have full Bird Rights) for $31.8 million, the Warriors can retain their roster, largely in full. However, Durant’s max is approximately $4.2 million above his non-Bird number, at around $36 million, so the Warriors would have to use cap space to sign him to any number between the $31.8 million and $36 million. That would reduce their cap space to a number between $7.5-$12.6 million, as they would have $12.7 million in space if he signed as a non bird piece. From there, the Warriors would be forced to renounce Andre Iguodala and Shawn Livingston, as their cap holds would exceed their cap space; both players would have to leave to make their market value, although, of course, both could take less to stay. From there, the Warriors would be forced to renounce one or two of McGee, McAdoo, Clark, Pachulia, and West. If the Warriors wanted a slot around $4.5 million, they could get there by renouncing these players.
In short, Durant’s non-Bird status puts the Warriors in a position where they may lose some of their non top 4 guys due to a salary crunch. In all likelihood, we will see the Warriors retain their big 4, but be forced to make changes on the edges. They should still be dynastic, unless Iguodala and Livingston both leave (and even then, still could be).
So where can the Nets join the hunt for talent here? For starters, forget any pipe dreams about the Warriors big 4. Draymond and Klay are not being traded. Durant and Curry want to win and will likely stick together; if they leave (unlikely), it would be to win big somewhere else outside the other’s shadow. Brooklyn is not an option; there is not a single relevant connection to a free agent’s analysis there.
The problem with the Warriors’ free agents is two fold. First, if any of them want to win at this stage (think Iguodala and West), the Nets are a non factor. Second, the Warriors combine a world class offensive system that a coach could win with even with mediocre players, with the elite talent of the second and third best NBA players, and two top 15-25 players, that a coach could win with even running the world’s worst system. Combine the system and talent level, and the Warriors are frighteningly good. That creates a question as to all of their free agents the Nets could touch: would they be as good, or close, in Brooklyn (or, really, anyplace outside Golden State), where they simply will not have the types of looks at the basket and creases in defenses that they have in Golden State? Remember: if you sign, say, Ian Clark, you don’t get to bring Steve Kerr and Steph Curry with him.
Ian Clark is a good piece to look at in this prism. Sure, he’s an over 36% three point shooter, and he is only 26. But the Nets have several young point guards, and Clark shot 20% from three in 2015, his last season without the Warriors’ greatness skewing his numbers. Is he really worth a 4 year, $25-$35 million deal? I doubt it.
Unlike Clark, who makes we nervous because we have seen him be a non factor outside Golden State, James Michael McAdoo has never played anywhere else. He has shown in his three years that he can shoot (despite poorer numbers this year), and play competently on both ends as a wing. There is the concern with him, however, that his skills simply will not translate over to a lesser team. However, at just 24 years old, and with the Nets in need of quality forwards, I would give him a look this summer, if the money and years are manageable. On paper, he is the type of restricted free agent that may be balked on (or the Warriors may not even make a qualifying offer).
Zaza Pachulia, however, is a piece to consider. Unlike Clark, Pachulia has a pedigree of producing outside the machine that is the Warriors. The Nets need a bruiser up front, and he could play that role. He also, for whatever reason, has consistently been underpaid and undervalued by the league. Whether the Nets keep or trade Brook Lopez, if they can get Pachulia for reasonable money (and more importantly, years), they should consider it.
Shaun Livingston, despite being a fan favorite, is a piece to be hesitant on. If he leaves the Warriors, it could be a tell that he wants to start, or at least be closer in level to the starting point guard such that he has an increased role. However, Livingston has quietly shown slippage in Oakland, a danger for a player about to turn 32, and his decline would not be masked in Brooklyn by a powerhouse of teammates. And if he returns to Brooklyn, he will want a payday. No thank you there.
Kevin Looney and Daimon Jones are unlikely to be available this summer. The Warriors have them on tiny, cost controlled salaries, and they need as many of those as they can find, with a payroll likely looking at four monster salaries coupled with a dearth of picks. However, they are young, live bigs with upside, so if the Warriors look to trade either to make an immediate term upgrade, the Nets should take a serious look at seeing if they can acquire either cheaply. The same goes for Pat McCaw as a forward (although, again, I see no reason for the Warriors to even contemplate dealing these cheaper contracts off).
Beyond that, there are no real options. JaVale McGee’s lack of discipline and character questions do not just go away because he produces with this group; how does that translate to a regular NBA team. Poorly, based on past history. No thank you. Matt Barnes is the opposite of a character veteran, is not good anymore, and is not a fit in Brooklyn, even in the slightest.
Finally, the Warriors have no picks to trade until 2019, and it is hard to imagine the Nets being able to provide an upgrade that both warrants them to trade a pick, and that makes sense for the Nets. Given the Warriors bloated salaries, they cannot absorb Lopez, Lin, or Booker because they cannot send much back. A pick trade here feels unlikely.