Is a Dark Era on the Warriors’ Horizon?


Losing the NBA Finals is usually a heartbreaking event for any team. The higher the stakes, the more these losses hurt the team and their fans. The Golden State Warriors lost this year’s NBA Finals, but that was least of their problems, concerns or disappointments. Granted, when you have won three of the last four championships, expectation and disappointment levels are different from your average team. The fan base is well-fed and is not as hungry as it used to be. With all that said, the disappointment of a Finals loss should still sting and be the headline, unless two of your three biggest stars also suffer career-altering injuries during the aforementioned Finals. That’s exactly what happened to the Warriors.

Devastating Injuries

Kevin Durant suffered a torn Achilles and Klay Thompson tore his ACL in back-to-back Finals games They’re both unrestricted free agents and are expected to test the markets beginning Sunday evening. Regardless of where they end up, neither of them will be available to start next season. That changes everything for the Warriors, who are also moving out of Oakland and into a new stadium in San Francisco. Shutting down the legendary Oracle Arena with a Finals loss brought up visions of this dynasty ending. The injuries definitely and rightfully gave more credence to that line of thinking.

While Kevin’s return to the team was always in doubt, Klay was expected to return and help keep the Dubs in the upper echelons of the league. Klay won’t be available to open the Chase center now regardless. He was very much in the “Game 6 Klay” mode when the injury happened. He might have also given Oracle another legendary moment on the way out. His dramatic return to hit the free throws after the ACL injury got some of the loudest cheers from Oracle since the “We Believe” days!


Injuries of this nature are never ideal, but the timing of it couldn’t be worse for the Dubs. Not only did it possibly cost the Dubs the championship, but it happened so late in June that these players will be nowhere near ready for the start of the next season. Without these two injured stars, the Dubs have fallen back to the pack and then some. They are way over the salary cap and can’t replace them that easily. They are staring at a $350M+ salary plus a luxury tax bill for 2019-20 if both Klay and KD re-sign. This payroll will include a significant chunk sitting on the shelf for most of the season. The expectation is that the Dubs will offer the full max to both, with Klay likely accepting. Even if KD declines, they still don’t have the cap room to invest that money elsewhere.

Curry, Dray, and Who?

The Dubs still have Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. Not a bad place to start, but you need to field a team around them and need cap space to do it. The Dubs only have a tax payers’ midlevel exception of around $5.7 million. They will try to sign a serviceable wing player for that salary. Names like Austin Rivers, Seth Curry, and Trevor Ariza are in the mix, though even those players will probably command a higher salary than what the Dubs can offer. The Warriors FO has to depend on their existing contracts and minimum salaries to fill the rest of the roster. They will probably guarantee Alfonzo McKinnie’s team-friendly $1.6M deal, but Shaun Livingston’s $7.7M ($2M guaranteed) is another story.

There should be enough playing time for youngsters like Damian Jones and Jacob Evans. They will have this year’s picks coming in as well. What all these youngsters do with this opportunity is a completely different question. Answer to that question may very well decide how far this Curry/Dray/Iggy Dubs go.

In the current NBA salary system, most of the money goes to the top guys, often leaving the middle and lower tier players behind. The Dubs sure hope that happens this year too so they can score some decent talent with the minimum salary. However, there are too many teams with salary cap room this offseason. Guys are going to get paid! Dubs will face a lot of competition for talent this year. The ring chasers have flocked to them the last few years and that won’t happen either this year since they are not a legitimate title contender without Klay and KD.

Boogie and Looney

Last but not least, the two interesting decisions for the Dubs involve DeMarcus Cousins and Kevon Looney. The rules clearly limit how much the Dubs can offer Boogie– he’ll probably get more than the $6.4 million/year that the Dubs can offer. But it’s not clear if that will be available for him from other teams. Both sides have left the door open for a reunion.

Boogie neither looked great physically nor did he fit the system well this season. Given the changed realities and another offseason for Boogie to rehab, however, a high-usage scoring option like him may not be a bad option to put around Curry. Also, the Dubs lose this salary slot if they don’t sign Boogie. It’s not like they can go sign another wing for that number. Given the cap room available across the league this year, somebody may come in and offer $10-15 million/year to Boogie. That could basically take the decision out of Boogie and the Dubs’ hands.

Looney on the other hand is a different story. The Dubs hold his Bird rights and hence can go over the cap to sign him. That’s the good news, but the challenge is how high can they afford to go with the salary, which will cost them additional luxury tax dollars. They may not have an option and might need Looney more than ever. The expectation is they will be willing to offer Looney $8-10 million next year. Again, the hope here is some other team doesn’t come in with a bigger offer or more years than the Dubs. That will make it tough for the Dubs to match.

The operative word for the Dubs the entire year is going to be “tough.” But I would be careful not to count these guys out. It will be interesting to watch how they navigate this July. Regardless of what transpires, the summer will establish a pre-cursor to how they navigate the season. If things don’t go well, which they very well could, a dark era may be on the Warriors’ horizon.

About Aravind Srinivasan

Aravind loves two things- the NBA and writing. He has been a long-time Phoenix Suns fans since the Charles Barkley-Kevin Johnson era of the mid-90’s. He now lives in the Golden State and follows the Warriors closely. An avid sports and NBA blogger since the early days of blogging, he is now a Suns and Dubs writer for TLSM. His favourite Sun is Steve Nash and his favourite Warrior is Steph Curry. Twitter: @15cent

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