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Sports >  WSU basketball

Commentary: There’s only one thing to do with Klay Thompson, Draymond Green

May 19, 2023 Updated Sat., May 20, 2023 at 9:54 p.m.

Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson, left, and Draymond Green warm up before facing the Los Angeles Lakers on May 10 at the Chase Center in San Francisco.  (Tribune News Service)
Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson, left, and Draymond Green warm up before facing the Los Angeles Lakers on May 10 at the Chase Center in San Francisco. (Tribune News Service)
By Dieter Kurtenbach Bay Area News Group

If we learned one thing from this disappointing Golden State Warriors’ season, it’s that this team has only one timeline: Stephen Curry’s.

Despite plenty of wishful thinking, there will not be a smooth, easy transition to a new, young, winning core. No, the Warriors will go as far as Curry can take them in the years to come.

And Curry should have the other two members of the team’s title core – former Washington State standout Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – along for the ride.

While Curry has sounded like he wants to be basketball’s Tom Brady – playing until heaven knows when – he has three seasons remaining on his current contract with the Warriors.

That’s a long time in the ever-changing NBA, but it’s a perfect runway for the Warriors’ troika, of which the mortal two showed their age this past season.

If the Warriors’ top priority this offseason should be to re-sign president of basketball operations Bob Myers, the next thing they should do is sign Green and Thompson to extensions that line up with Curry’s contract.

The Warriors aren’t going to pull themselves out of salary cap hell anytime soon. Not with Curry set to make $51.9 million, $55.7 million, and $59.6 million over the next three seasons. So they might as well ride the stallions that brought them to this point.

And while Green and Thompson would likely have to take a bit of a haircut to sign extensions, both must know that the Warriors will value them more than the market.

Green should be the easiest to extend. He wants to be a Warrior for life, he’s proven that by taking team-friendly deals twice before, and he has a player option for the 2023-24 season at $27.5 million.

If Green opts into that deal with the intent of hitting free agency after next season, he could well end up a mercenary player making the league minimum or, if he’s lucky, the midlevel exception for the twilight years of his career.

He only needs to look at his market this summer: If he opts out, who will pay him $120 million over four years?

The only teams with salary cap space are places where Green won’t want to play – Houston, Indiana, San Antonio, Detroit and Orlando. They’re loser teams, and Green’s legacy is tied to winning.

Green is smart. He’ll be looking for term at something close to his current rate. This is his last chance to sign anything close to a nine-figure contract.

The Warriors are no dummies, either – no matter who is in charge in these negotiations.

A fair offer to keep Green with Curry: Three years, $75 million.

That would encompass his $27.5 million player option this season, with two more seasons at a diminishing rate.

With the open market so small, and another year of wear-and-tear creating a serious risk, that is probably the best deal Green can get.

Things are trickier with Thompson.

The wing is extension-eligible this summer, and his on-court value does not line up with his current pay. Thompson is due $43.2 million next year, but any new contract would need to be closer to Green’s number than that.

ESPN reported in April that Thompson expects a max-value deal this offseason. Perhaps his play in the playoffs softened that stance for him. I know it must have for the Warriors and the rest of the NBA.

Would a two-year extension for $75 million total be amenable?

If not, then the Warriors might have to look at an earlier end to the Big Three by looking to trade Thompson and perhaps Green, too. All good things come to an end, but the Warriors can’t afford to let Green or Thompson exit via free agency – because Golden State is so far over the salary cap (and would remain so, even with both players leaving after next season) there is no way for it to replace either player with a similarly priced alternative. The Warriors can only re-sign the players they already have.

Yes, at some point, the Warriors will bottom out on salary and go under the luxury tax threshold again. But that’s not going to happen with Curry still in his prime. And not while his partners in winning still believe they have gas in the tank to compete for titles.

This is the Warriors’ lot. It’s the Big Three or nothing. And it’s too early to break it up just yet.

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