Don’t laugh or run out of the room screaming, AHHHH THE WARRIORS AHHHH ARE RUINING THE NBA AHHHH! Take a deep breath and hear me out: Someone extremely credible on the matter, someone who was on the Kevin Durant to Golden State bandwagon well before anyone else hopped on the train, believes owner Joe Lacob will try to add Paul George to the reigning NBA champions in 2018.
“I don’t know how that would happen,” The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami, the former California Sportswriter of the Year who has covered the NBA since the 1990s and the Warriors for more than a decade, told The Washington Post’s Tim Bontemps in a recent podcast, via SLAM, “and I didn’t know how it was going to happen three years ago when they said they were going to go after Durant.”
The Athletic colleague and fellow former Mercury News columnist Marcus Thompson II “and I have teased this for more than a year: We think they’re going to go after Paul George somehow,” said Kawakami during a conversation framed by the larger context of Golden State’s salary cap and luxury tax restraints. “Joe Lacob’s going to find a way to get Paul George.”
(Insert unlimited bulging eye emojis here.)
“Joe Lacob likes collecting stars,” he added. “If he can do it in a way to get the team younger, they’re going to to do it. They’re going to try everything.”
Indeed, Kawakami has mentioned the George scenario on occasion before …
Thought strikes me that Joe Lacob is probably going to want to acquire Paul George next summer.
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) July 1, 2017
… just like he teased Durant’s signing with the Warriors in 2014, when the whispers apparently began:
A deep, deep financial dive into the Warriors' chances of clearing enough space for a run at Durant in 2016… http://t.co/IIxK90Y4Mn
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) July 15, 2014
You are excused for a moment now that you’ve very clearly thrown up in your mouth at the thought of the 73-win team that added Kevin Durant last summer then potentially adding Paul George in 2018.
Like Kawakami, I was confused about how such preposterousness could happen, so we looked into it, and, yes, there are a few scenarios in which the Warriors could add Paul freakin’ George next summer.
1. Paul George opts into his contract for 2018-19.
George has a $20.7 million player option for the season after next, one most everyone believes he will opt out of to join his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. However, there’s at least the possibility that he could inform the Oklahoma City Thunder that he intends to walk in free agency, leaving them with nothing in return, or he will exercise his player option if they facilitate a trade to the Warriors. This is precisely what Chris Paul just did to facilitate his trade from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Houston Rockets.
Under that scenario, the Warriors would have to send out at least $16.5 million in player salaries to complete the trade. Both Klay Thompson ($19 million) and Draymond Green ($117.5 million), who are set to be free agents respectively in 2019 and 2020, fit the bill, but get this: So would fifth Hamptons 5 member Andre Iguodala ($16 million) and Jordan Bell ($1.4 million) or Shaun Livingston ($8.3 million) and $8.2 million in non-guaranteed contracts, to borrow a page out of Daryl Morey’s CP3 playbook.
Throw in a few future draft picks, and voila, the super-team just got super-er.
Now, that might disrupt the fabric of the Warriors and leave them with veteran minimum scraps on the free agency market to fill out the rest of the roster, but who really cares, because they could roll out a starting lineup of Stephen Curry, Durant, Thompson, Green and George — all in their prime. Again, I’m not saying it’s probable. It’s actually probably more than improbable. But it’s possible.
2. The Thunder sign-and-trade Paul George.
This would require quite a bit of salary cap magic on Golden State’s part, but again — possible.
So long as the Warriors do not exceed the projected $130.1 million payroll “apron” at the conclusion of a deal, they can participate in a sign-and-trade. With $99.6 million in guaranteed salaries committed to six players in 2018-19 and another $6.8 million in cap holds, before they even re-sign Durant, they could renounce Durant’s Early Bird rights, trade for George at a max salary of $30.6 million — with a minimum of $24.4 million (Iguodala, Livingston and picks?) going to OKC, and then re-sign Durant.
There are other ways the Warriors can work George in under the apron — with Durant exercising his $26.25 million option and the Warriors sending more than $30 million to the Thunder or Durant taking an even bigger pay cut than the one he took this summer — but the first one seems most plausible.
And by plausible, I mean highly implausible. These first two scenarios would not only require Oklahoma City — the same team that lost Durant to the Warriors last year — to facilitate the deal, but, assuming the Warriors aren’t willing to trade Thompson or Green for George, also accept paying a 34-year-old Iguodala and/or a 32-year-old Livingston through 2020. Thunder general manager Sam Presti would presumably prefer to commit seppuku than make such a deal. And if he somehow survived, he might be murdered by way of Russell Westbrook dunk or get torn limb from limb by Steven Adams.
However, there is one way the Warriors could add George without OKC’s help …
3. Paul George accepts a massive pay cut.
George could simply sign with the Warriors for the minimum ($2.2 million) or taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.3 million), which would be ludicrous in comparison to the $30.6 million starting salary he could command on the open market and unprecedented for a player of his caliber in his prime.
Still, it’s possible.
All of this presumes George actually wants to join the Warriors and win multiple titles with a team that almost just swept the playoffs without him. If you thought Durant caught flak for jumping to a Golden State group that lost in seven games to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, just imagine what would happen if George decided burning the NBA to the ground was more fun than slaying the dragon.
If this happens, though, the laughter about Lacob saying the Warriors are “light-years ahead” of the rest of the NBA in 2016, which grew to a murmur this summer, would be officially silenced forever, and we would all be free to run out of the room screaming, The Warriors are ruining the NBA! Because good God.
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