This season’s Golden State Warriors is arguably the strongest team they have assembled by far. Boasting of an All-star caliber starting unit once DeMarcus Cousins recovers from his injury, there is no team that can compare to the star power and firepower that this team has.
With two MVP-level players in Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, as well as two-way marksman extraordinaire Klay Thompson plus fiery defensive savant Draymond Green in the middle, it is nearly impossible to find a solution to the Warriors.
Without a doubt they are on top of the world, as the reigning NBA champions and the expected champions for years to come, they are a dynasty on a roll. At the same time, the ultimate question would be how long can the Warriors sustain it?
Before we come up with a conclusion, let me point out two factors that determine their sustainability and their long-term success. It is an important look at context and not just assuming all the pieces will remain the exact same for the next several years. After all, roster turnover is a reality in the NBA.
First Factor: Cap Space
Right now, the accumulated payroll of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins, and Andre Iguodala are hitting the Warriors with roughly $125 million without the bonuses and other incentives. To get that number into perspective, the salary of the whole Sacramento Kings roster is estimated to be around $95 million. So the value of six players is equivalent or even more than the salary of one whole NBA roster.
Not to knock on their talents, but the real deciding factor for keeping a team together is the salary numbers despite the undeniable talent.
In relation, in order to keep the whole Warriors team together along with their six prized pieces, they are paying an estimated $74 million in luxury tax to keep the powerhouse that they are running. It may not seem like much to some, the tax hit might be worth it in terms of achieving more NBA championships, but sooner or later those cap hits will hurt and the business definitely get to feel it. As long as the team endures the tax hits, gets the valued players their appropriate salary, and gets value contracts on their supporting cast while they play fantastic basketball, the Golden State machine will still be rolling.
For this reason, it leads me to the next factor.
Second Factor: Free Agency
In the summer of 2019, teams are gearing up for one of the most interesting and game-changing free agent pools in recent history. With names like Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, and Jimmy Butler possible to join the pool, make no doubt, every team is going to join that frenzy to acquire an elite player’s services. It’s going to have an impact on Golden State simply because the Warriors can’t offer every single player in the league a max-deal.
For a team that will need to pay Finals MVP Kevin Durant and four-time All-star Klay Thompson, the Warriors organization will be put under the spotlight once again, on how they will wiggle out of it next summer.
If they do manage to get both marquee players locked in long-term and on a discount, the 2020-21 season will not be kind to the team with Green and Iguodala needing contracts.
On another note, with nothing to prove anymore as champions, KD and Thompson can go be the alpha for a respective team willing to pay for their services. With the allure of being the face of the team, without being under the shadow of the other fellow Hamptons Five members, it could be enough to sway them to leave the championship pursuit in the Bay Area and carve out a legacy of their own.
In spite of being the mightiest team to date, the sustainability is definitely not going to be long-term. The balancing act on the payrolls is enough work as is, not counting how much the luxury tax hurts with every hit. No matter how loyal or how generous the Warriors elite core is on giving discounts, whichever the case, each player need to be compensated accordingly. If one manages to disrupt the balance or the harmony of the contracts, a domino effect will cause the contracts to go out of hand.
This upcoming season will not give them that many headaches with everybody still on the same page. If they manage to retain Thompson and KD next summer we may get to see excellence for a year or two more.
Another possibility might be the thinning out of the Hamptons Five to four or even three integral parts to make way for cap relief and new blood to pave the way for the future.
With all these on the table, everything is up in the air regarding the Warriors future. However, as the opener nears, all eyes will be on the reigning champions as they continue to stretch their dominance in the league. For every issue that they will be faced in the future, the only thing that matters now is how arguably the mightiest team in modern NBA basketball defends their ground this season.