The defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors can get better with Kevin Durant – only if they make a complex set of moves work.
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant will be the biggest name to hit the free agency market in the 2016 off-season, and multiple suitors – including the LA Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, and hometown Washington Wizards.
But among the surprise names in the possible mix would be the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors, and Yahoo! Sports managed to list down a nine-step process on how Dub Nation will secure the biggest name of the 2016 free agency sweepstakes:
Step 1: Keep Curry, Thompson, and Green happy
This is a no-brainer: All-Stars Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green is the centerpiece of the Warriors success. With a combined guaranteed salary of $44 million, the young core of Curry (27), Thompson (25), and Green (25) will be the most important of all for the team’s long term success.
Step 2: Lock in Shaun Livingston’s deal
The versatile Livingston will have the full $5.7 million of his three-year contract becomes guaranteed on June 30. Currently, only $3 million is guaranteed.
Step 3: Youth Movement
Kevon Looney, the Warriors pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, is proving to be a huge bargain for the team and is still on the rookie scale contract of $1.2 million next season. The team is projected to pick 30th in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft this June, and will have a cap hold of $973,000. With this, the Warriors could duplicate the same move the San Antonio Spurs have been doing for years and select an international talent and leave him in Europe. This cap hold would be released should they achieve this. Take note that the Warriors have traded away their 2017 first round draft pick to Utah in 2013, hence they cannot trade away their 2016 pick due to the Ted Stepien rule.
Step 4: Make Festus Ezeli part of the long-term plans
Festus Ezeli has been playing his best basketball, but doubts on his health has surfaced when he missed the 2013-14 season and is currently on the shelf due to a knee injury. But similar to a situation Steph Curry was in due to his ankle troubles, should Ezeli prove durable, he can be a keeper for the Warriors. Ezeli takes up $5 million salary cap space, but he could command as much as double his pay on the open market.
Step 5: Say goodbye to AI
Should NBA Finals most valuable player Andre Iguodala be shopped for cap space, as much as ten teams with enough salary room will flock to secure his services. The 32-year old Iguodala is on the final year of a hefty $11.1 million contract, which is a bargain for teams in search of a quality wing player.
Step 6: Use stretch provision on Andrew Bogut
The Golden State Warriors will be better off trading away Andrew Bogut. But should this not work, the team will have to “stretch” the remainder of his contract over three seasons, which will affect their salary cap space by $3.6 million.
Take note: There is a way that the Warriors will have $23 million in cap space, but it will involve retaining Bogut but renouncing Festus Ezeli.
Step 7: Use stretch provision on Jason Thompson as well
Jason Thompson will have the Warriors pay him $2.6 million of his $6.8 million contract guaranteed, should the team waive him by June 26. The Warriors can then stretch the $2.6 million over three seasons and incur a cap penalty of $883,000.
Step 8: Say goodbye to Harrison Barnes
Letting go of Harrison Barnes will be the toughest part of the process to acquire Durant via free agency, especially with his steady improvement since getting drafted seventh overall in 2012. Waiving Barnes will save $9.6 million as part of the bigger plan to offer Durant a max contract at $25 million.
Step 9: Part ways with free-agent cap holds
Seven role players – Mareesse Speights, Leandro Barbosa, Brandon Rush, James McAdoo, Ian Clark, Jermaine O’Neal and Ognen Kuzmic – could free up $17 million in cap space should the Warriors choose to let go of their services. However, they could only be brought back for the minimum or midlevel room.
In this complex process, the Warriors will have four players – Curry, Klay Thompson, Green, and Livingston – in for the long haul. Two key cogs in Iguodala and Barnes will have to say goodbye, while Bogut and Jason Thompson will also be let go and have the remainder of their salaries paid over three years.
In short, the team’s composition and style of play will drastically change in the process of just trying to acquire Kevin Durant in a high risk, high reward scenario. Should the Warriors achieve such, they will come out as the big winners, but sacrifice the long term viability of the teams should another team snag the seven-time All Star.