Steph Curry and Klay Thompson Want to Be Warriors for Life — Is That Even Possible?

    “I’ve said it many times before: I’d like to be a Warrior for life.” That’s what Klay Thompson told Mark Medina of the Bay Area News Group on Sunday.

    September 6, 2018

    “I’ve said it many times before: I’d like to be a Warrior for life.”

    That’s what Klay Thompson told Mark Medina of the Bay Area News Group on Sunday. Backcourt mate Stephen Curry expressed a similar sentiment on Bill Simmons’ podcast on August 16.

    Three titles in four years will create this type of culture, but Curry and Thompson might have a greater sense of loyalty to the Bay Area. Both are homegrown players.

    In the 2009 NBA Draft, Curry fell to Golden State after the Timberwolves chose Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn — both point guards, like Curry — ahead of Steph in back-to-back picks.

    Two drafts later, Golden State took Thompson, a relatively unknown commodity from Washington State.

    Curry and Thompson have become two of the greatest shooters in NBA history. Among players with at least 3,000 career three-point attempts, they rank first and fourth, respectively, in three-point shooting percentage. Curry already ranks in the top 10 in career three-pointers made. Thompson will almost certainly join him.

    The Warriors won 26 games in Curry’s first season and 36 in his second. They went 23-43 in a lockout-shortened season with both Curry and Thompson on the roster in 2011-12.

    Both players have experienced tough seasons in the Bay Area. But considering how far the Warriors have come, The Splash Brothers can be considered the building blocks of the current dynasty. If you had to pick two faces of franchise, these are the two guys you’d choose.

    The duo is symbolic of not just the modern NBA, but also of the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. An organization attempting to zag while everyone else is zigging by building around pieces far more valuable today than they were at the time. The Warriors might play basketball, but they’ve experienced a trajectory similar to the area’s tech startups. Believe in your vision, take risks and make everyone else regret their initial criticism.

    In a time when loyalty seems non-existent, the Warriors have shown tremendous commitment to their backcourt stars. Curry signed a four-year, $44 million extension after a series of ankle injuries. That extension, which was questioned at the time, became one of the greatest contracts ever. Curry eventually inked a five-year, $201 million deal.

    When the Timberwolves made Kevin Love available in the summer of 2014, Golden State balked on a potential deal that included Klay Thompson. The Warriors signed Klay to an extension instead. It’s understandable why Curry and Thompson are publicly expressing their desire to remain with Golden State. The franchise has backed them in every moment.

    Every franchise goes down. The 1960s Celtics went down. The Showtime Lakers went down. Jordan’s Bulls went down. In the past two decades, the Lakers, Spurs and Heat have been knocked off the pinnacle after reaching the top. Players decline or chase new opportunities. Another team finds the right mix and ends the dynasty. The Warriors will not last forever, but their biggest challenge might not come from the hardwood.

    According to Spotrac, the Warriors face a luxury tax bill upwards of $56 million in 2018-19. Curry’s massive contract won’t be going away anytime soon and Kevin Durant will be in line for a maximum contract. Thompson is an unrestricted free agent next offseason if he doesn’t agree to a contract beforehand. If Durant opts into free agency after this season, the Warriors will be forced to make a move.

    Durant’s max deal will account for 35 percent of the salary cap. Assuming the cap will be no more than $109 million for the 2019-20 season, Durant’s deal will cost the Warriors over $38 million per season. Golden State has Thompson’s Bird Rights, meaning it can go over the cap to sign him — but that would be a costly endeavor. If Thompson makes an All-NBA team at any level in 2018-19, he will eligible for a “supermax” contract. This means Thompson can earn a salary between 30-35 percent of the cap, which would fall between $32-$38 million.

    If Thompson qualifies for the supermax and Durant opts out, Golden State has a significant decision to make. With Curry, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala already on the books, the Warriors have $75.9 million locked in. Add a max contract for Durant and a top supermax extension for Thompson and that number balloons to north of $150 million. That puts the Warriors $40 million over the salary cap and about $18 million over the projected 2019-20 luxury tax threshold with five players on the roster. Factor in harsh repeat tax penalties and Golden State could easily face a tax bill north of $100 million. That’s like paying for two full teams in one year.

    Green will require a contract in 2020. Even with Iguodala’s deal coming off the books, Golden State will have to balance the potential of four max contracts and another gargantuan tax bill with the possibility of a putting a dent in its culture by letting a homegrown player in Green walk.

    Golden State faces a “loyalty cost” with Thompson and Green, both of whom sacrificed money during their first extension to keep the championships rolling. Thompson and Green will expect the same loyalty back from the organization in this round of contract talks. Curry got paid after sacrificing; Thompson and Green will expect the same.

    Should the Warriors choose to keep their culture intact and sacrifice Durant, to whom they feel much less loyalty towards, they would likely fall down from invincibility. Should they choose to attempt to keep their current group together, they face a mammoth tax bill that ownership will certainly express concerns over.

    The Warriors appear to have solved basketball. Now they have to solve the tax.

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