Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant (35) celebrates on stage after winning Game 5 of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, June 12, 2017. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 129-120 to win the NBA Championship. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
By **Tim Kawakami
** | email@example.com
| Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: July 4, 2017 at 11:21 am
| UPDATED: July 4, 2017 at 2:10 pm
No, I did not expect to be writing a Kevin Durant July 4 manifesto for the second straight year, but so it goes and here I go…
Yesterday’s news-breaker: Durant has agreed to take $9.6M less than his maximum potential salary for next season to re-sign another one-plus-one deal with the Warriors starting at around $25M, which is also $6.8M less than was necessary for the Warriors to fit him under their own cap mechanics.
Generally, this is the ultimate indication that Durant believes that the Warriors fulfilled every promise made to him in that meeting in the Hamptons last July (which led to his signing announcement exactly a year ago), and this is the fulfillment of everything Durant implicitly promised to them.
They will work together. They will share, they will all make plenty of money, they will have fun. They will win.
And they will keep this together, for as long as possible, as practically as possible, presuming all sides (including ownership) keep operating in good faith.
Which has happened, and this Durant give-back is the latest and largest example of it.
(The scope of it is what’s most surprising, of course, since we already knew he wasn’t going to demand the $34.6M max in order to let the Warriors maintain their Bird Rights on Iguodala and Livingston.)
And the fact that the extra give-back almost certainly led directly to owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber spending an additional $6-7M combined per year on Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston’s new deals is the proof of it, with potentially more extra spending coming in the next few days.
The line connecting Durant’s lesser money to larger payroll issues… is the part that gets people angry — well, of course, anything having to do with the Warriors or Durant specifically just seems to drive people insane, no matter what it is.
The NBA makes a lot of money because fans personalize every decision by every player and every team, but the shrieking on Durant — no matter what he does, when he does it, how he does it — is just way out of scale. Way, way out of scale.
I look at things practically, however, and that always helps me in times like these, especially viewing Durant moves when so many others are using kaleidoscope vision on him.
In a real-world view, all of the work-together-win-together-make-money-together stuff is exactly what this is.
It doesn’t mean any of these Warriors guys are saints or martyrs. They’re all being rewarded quite lucratively. They live great lives.
And the owners, executives, coaches and players also are in a partnership here at a level that you rarely see — they understand this special moment in time and they are reacting to it.
It might not last another season, it might last five seasons, I don’t know. But it’s the environment now, and Durant is reacting to it. So are Lacob and Guber.
If you don’t like or believe that, that’s OK with me. Your call, just as all these decisions are individual calls by each of the Warriors’ principals.******
OK, to Durant specifically…
His salary for 2017-2018 will be around $25M, which is of course not a pittance, but is several levels lower than the $34.6M max starting salary that Stephen Curry will receive in his new 5-year extension and the $31.8M salary (20% raise from last season) that Durant could’ve received from the Warriors as a non-Bird Rights player.
It’s even lower than the $26.5M Durant received from the Warriors last season.
And look at this practically:
-Owners who are going way over the luxury-tax line have the right to suggest that there’s a limit to how much tax they want to pay, and the Warriors are already way over the $119M luxury-tax line for this coming season.
-Let’s guess that Lacob and GM Bob Myers maybe had a final-level goal of keeping their payroll near or at $139.999M, just short of triggering a 375% tax on every additional dollar, which, if it went no higher than that, would still produce a $45M tax bill… and a total payroll cost of $185M.
That’s almost double last season’s payroll of about $94M, by the way. The Warriors were in the luxury tax two years ago, but dipped below last year to fit Durant into cap room.
-Players can decide what to do from there. If Durant knew that the Warriors were up against a self-imposed $185M payroll bill when they were negotiating with Iguodala and Livingston, and that he could get them more money if he took less… then that’s his own process.
It’s not your process. It’s not even Joe Lacob’s process. It’s Durant’s, in this real-world situation of budgets and limits and decisions.
Durant had the right to negotiate for every dollar possible, of course, and he had the right to tell Lacob that if Iguodala and Livingston needed more money, he’d take less.
Again: Real-world budgets, with an owner who is already doubling the payroll costs. Durant easily could’ve told Lacob and Lacob to pay for Iguodala and Livingston themselves, period. Easily, easily. He didn’t.******
-That doesn’t mean either thing had to be agreed to.
Durant could insisted on the $31.8M and nobody would’ve criticized a bit. (OK, it’s Durant, so the Wild Durant Bashers would’ve found a way to criticize him, but nobody sane would’ve criticized him.)
Lacob could’ve said that even if Durant took less, that wouldn’t necessarily mean that Iguodala and Livingston were worth $48M over three years and $20M over three years (two guaranteed years at $8M and a $2M guarantee for the third), respectively.
But both tacit or explicit things were agreed to and Durant took less while Iguodala and Livingston got more, and maybe there’s more coming with roster adds.
-If Durant didn’t want to give up the money, he had every right not to do it.
The Warriors are incredibly profitable. Durant has made a lot of money. This was his call and he was under no obligation to take a dollar less than he could’ve negotiated.
He certainly deserves it. But in a league with salary limits, and knowing that he still qualifies for the super-max next season (after he declines his player-option next July, as he did this year), then Durant had every right and was smart to weigh every right and how it affects his teammates.
Is he saving Lacob and Guber money? Yes, Durant is literally saving them money.
But it’s within budgeted allotments, and it’s not like Lacob and Guber are cheaping out on anybody or anything — they’re making a giant profit, but they’re also set to pay one of the largest payroll bills in NBA history.******
To make sure they could fit Iguodala and Livingston within those terms and that extravagant budget, Durant gave back some of what he could’ve demanded in the short-term.
I’m not sure why this angers people.
- So, you ask: Why wouldn’t Curry take less too?
That’s an easy one: First, as I have repeatedly said in relation to Durant, great players are under no obligation to ever accept a cut-rate salary. Durant chose to. There was no reason for Curry to do this, specifically in relation to this situation because…
-The Warriors had Curry’s full Bird Rights, which means they could pay him anything without respect to the salary cap. (That is parallel to the Warriors being able to pay Durant anything up to $31.8M. He took less.)
-Also, Durant has made approximately $135M in NBA salary in his career so far.
-Curry has made approximately $56M, thanks to being massively below market-rate the last four years.
If you argue that hey, these players have huge shoe deals and all kinds of other outside income, why not just take less and less salary to help the team pay for other players…
I’d point out that you could say the same thing about NBA owners, who actually make the direct profit off of the talents of those players.
It’s a give and take, as are all negotiations in the real world of massively profitable endeavors.
All sides have earned the right to negotiate — or give-back — what and when they want.
The Durant give-back isn’t unique in NBA or sports history, either. Tom Brady has done it throughout his NFL career. Several Spurs stars have done it repeatedly.
Derek Carr did it in a limited way with his new Raiders deal, and was lauded.
I don’t know why this specific case is the one people want to fight over, or why they want to demand rules changes because of just this, but I guess it’s Durant and people just want to fight if his name is brought up.
- All this maneuvering to try to avoid giving players the right to put together and maintain super-teams… has only ended up making it easier.
And* encouraging* it.
I keep arguing this and the evidence keeps piling up.
In a league with salary limits, the less-attractive teams have to give the max-deals to their own best players, even if their own best players aren’t at the top-10/20/30 level.
For instance, last July, Memphis had to pay Mike Conley, Jr., the max as he was coming up for an extension, or else why would he stay?
Problem: Conley is a very good and valuable player, but he’s not close to a top-10 player, and he’s currently now making $3.5M more than Durant because Conley had the leverage on Memphis last July and Memphis had to pay him the max because who else were they going to get for that number?
Nobody. That’s what salary-limits do: They shrink the range of salaries, especially at the top, which means that very good players make essentially the same as the greatest players and while that isn’t perfect for the greatest players, it also means their team preference is a larger factor (because all teams are essentially offering them similar salaries).
Do you see how this works? The Warriors are taking advantage of this, and why shouldn’t they, and everything the league does to try to stop this possibility only makes it easier and more appealing to do.
I will remind everybody that the Warriors were in a similar unattractive place several years ago, in the Cohan ownership and the beginnings of the Lacob/Guber timeline, despite their Bay Area location, because they had a terrible reputation.
Then things changed, Lacob and Guber started putting the pieces together and took full advantage of the area’s connections to Silicon Valley and everything else, and now the Warriors are the marquee team in the league and able to…
-Lure the best free agents and interestingly the first one they got, in a sign-and-trade, was Iguodala in 2013; he started the cycle that renewed itself this July;
-Keep at least one of them for far below his market rate because he wanted to stay and to help maintain the full roster core.
- I will get into this later, but yes, the recent wave of signings push the Warriors over the $125M luxury-tax apron line, and there are consequences, which they knew and wanted to avoid.
They didn’t avoid it — that Livingston deal pretty much guaranteed that the Warriors will fly over the $125M number, which is why I thought they might let him go; but they kept him and going over the apron is the price they paid to keep it together.
I have the Warriors at about $126M in salary commitments to 11 players (counting unsigned draftee Jordan Bell).
To fill their roster (max number is 15 players), even using low salaries (and I’m assuming they’ll use at least a few non-minimums to grab a center and an experienced guard), the sensible minimum they could realistically end up at is around $135M right now, I think.
Might be a tick lower, but around there, and if they have to spend a little more of their taxpayer mid-level exception than they want for somebody like Nick Young or a workable starting center, then it will definitely bump against the presumed $139.999M line.
Or go over. I’m not saying they can’t get to $140M, but I’m saying it sets up for them to work this right around there.
- The main consequence of going over the tax apron is that it hard-caps a team. The Warriors can still add players at minimum levels under hard-cap but when you’re hard-capped, you lose:
-The ability to take players in sign-and-trades;
-The biannual exception ($3.3M this year);
-Protection from the “Gilbert Arenas Rule” for second-round draft picks coming up for their next contract… which would solely in this case mean Patrick McCaw, due to become a free agent next July.
McCaw is the big deal here and as this payroll explodes, there is no doubt that the Warriors will want to keep McCaw, presuming everything goes well in his second season.
If they’re hard-capped next July, that would almost guarantee losing McCaw because they couldn’t match any kind of market-rate offer.
I’m not going to get into the deeper details here and now, plus I don’t want to bug some of my favorite salary-cap experts on the holiday, but the way I’m reading the CBA (as always, thanks Larry Coon!)…
But I see several ways the Warriors could get themselves below the projected apron line of $129M next July, and out of the hard cap, which would maintain their Arenas rights on McCaw.
Some of them involve Durant’s contract number and it gets complicated. More on this in a later item.
Generally, it won’t be super-easy to get below the apron and therefore maintain their Arenas rights on McCaw, but I don’t think it’s impossible and in fact I would predict that the Warriors already know they can do this.