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Can the Warriors Afford to Keep Core Together? Should They?

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
The new NBA collective bargaining agreement makes it difficult for the Golden State Warriors to operate as normal moving forward.

A loophole in the previous NBA collective bargaining agreement led to a one-year salary cap increase so great that the Golden State Warriors could afford to sign Kevin Durant outright in free agency in 2016, helping Steph Curry and the Dubs win two championships. The new recently ratified CBA could be particularly cruel to the Warriors moving forward.

A second luxury cap apron was added that will punish teams for payrolls $17.5 million above the luxury tax. With a projected $134 million salary cap and a $162 million luxury tax threshold, payrolls above $179.5 million next season will be subject to additional penalties including:

  • Teams over the second apron will no longer get the taxpayer midlevel exception, which Golden State used to sign Donte DiVincenzo last summer.
  • Teams over the first ($7 million above the tax) or second aprons won’t be able to sign a bought-out player if that player’s contract was above the non-taxpayer midlevel exception, roughly $10.5 million this season. 
  • A salary matching exception on trades involving second apron teams will decrease from 125% to 110%, making contract math more difficult. Starting in the 2024 offseason, those teams won’t be able to aggregate salaries to trade for one player making more money nor will they be able to send out cash in trades.
  • Starting in 2024-25, second-apron teams will no longer be able to trade a future first-round pick seven years in the future. That hypothetical 2032 pick would then be moved to the end of the first round regardless of the standings if that team goes over the 2nd apron twice in the following four seasons.
  • Starting in 2025-26, there will be increased luxury tax penalties if you go $10 million over the tax, which would’ve cost the Warriors a reported $63 million extra in tax payments this season.

In other words, the Warriors need to ask themselves this: Can they afford to keep this current core together after a second-round defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers? Because new league rules are making it far more difficult for teams like Golden State to operate with relatively limitless spending. 

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The contract extensions that were given out after their championship last season to Andrew Wiggins — four years and $109 million — and Jordan Poole — four years and $128 million — sap the Warriors of a lot of future flexibility within the constraints of the new CBA. 

Klay Thompson has one more year at $43.2 million left on his contract. Draymond Green has a $27.6 million player option for next season. The Warriors already have a projected payroll north of $200 million next season, putting them way above 2nd apron range. And that’s even before they address important free agents like DiVincenzo (assuming he opts out of $4.75 million next season), JaMychal Green, and restricted free agent Anthony Lamb. Unless the Warriors want to deal with these new high payroll stringencies, some really tough decisions will probably have to be made, including a first-round pick owed to Memphis that becomes unprotected in 2026.

Whoever’s in the position making those choices for Golden State in the future, keeping the core together that won four championships and making the team competitive will be a seemingly tall task.

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