Last week I stupidly declared that the Warriors were going to destroy the Thunder. I am stupid, so I was wrong. In fact, the Thunder have a 2-1 lead in the series along with home court advantage and a potential Draymond Green suspension for Game 4. In other words, holy crap the Warriors could really lose this thing.
One of the prevailing narratives of this series has been Oklahoma City’s rebounding advantage. They out-rebounded the Thunder by 14 in Game 3 alone, and should they win the series with similar trends, there are going to be a lot of voices yelling for the Warriors to get bigger. They absolutely shouldn’t listen. They just won 73 games. But just for fun let’s overreact to this and get Golden State Hassan Whiteside.
With four years of NBA service, Whiteside’s max salary would be 25% of the salary cap. Let’s assume the cap is going to be $90 million, giving Whiteside a max of $22.5 million. We can also safely assume that Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson aren’t going anywhere no matter what. Those three players combine for just over $44 million, so if you include Whiteside they’d have $66.5 million plus eight minimum cap holds on the books if they dumped literally every other player on the roster. They’re also stuck with around $6 million in dead money after waiving Jason Thompson, so all told, they’d have around $14 million left to play with. How much do the rest of the Warriors who are under contract for next year make?
- Andre Iguodala: $11.1 million
- Shaun Livingston: $5.7 million
- Andrew Bogut: $11 million
- Kevin Looney: $1.2 million
- Harrison Barnes: $7.8 million*
So essentially, the Warriors could keep any combination of those salaries below $14 million after paying Whiteside. Everyone else would have to be dumped on other teams. Luckily for the Warriors, most of those assets are valuable enough to be absorbed freely into someone else’s cap space, and even if they weren’t Golden State still has 2019 and 2021 first round picks available to be traded. They would also have to renounce the rights to every other free agent on the team, but if they were willing to take steps as drastic as trading Bogut and Iguodala that wouldn’t be an issue.
If the Warriors wanted to keep, say, Iguodala and Looney, there would be no problems. Both are under contract next season. But likely the most appealing combination would be Barnes and Livingston, and if that’s the case, we have to address that nasty little asterisk. Barnes isn’t actually going to make $7.8 million next year. Truthfully, his salary is going to be much closer to Whiteside’s.
But Barnes is coming off of his rookie contract and will be a restricted free agent. That means that, rather than wiping him off of their books entirely, Golden State can retain the right to match any contract he signs so long as they are willing to live with a cap charge that is twice his 2015-16 salary on their books. That charge would be replaced by his new salary the moment he signed a new deal, but as long as Whiteside signed his contract first, the Warriors would be able to game the system and essentially create extra cap space through his cap hold. Barnes would have to agree not to sign an offer sheet with another team, as that salary would become his new cap charge, but if he did that’s Golden State’s clearest avenue towards clearing cap space without getting rid of him entirely.
The Warriors would then be left with a roster of Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Green, Whiteside, Livingston and whatever six minimum-salaried players they could find. A few of them, like Anderson Varejao and Leandro Barbosa, are probably already on the roster. The rest would have to be found on the bottom of the free agency pile. So adding Whiteside would fix Golden State’s rebounding problem, but destroy most of their depth.
It’s not going to happen, the Warriors value that depth too much and, again, just won 73 games. They’re going to keep this team together no matter what. But hey, overreactions are fun to think about, and if they lost this series and were truly desperate to counter Oklahoma City’s size in a potential rematch next year, this is a way they could hypothetically do it.