After his team was thoroughly defeated again Monday, capping Golden State’s Western Conference Finals sweep and keeping the Warriors undefeated in the postseason, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich went out of his way to compliment his team’s opponent not only for its talent but the way they play beautiful, unselfish basketball.
Pop was right (as he almost always is). The Warriors are a team with a comically unfair amount of talent after adding Kevin Durant to a team that last season won an NBA-record 73 games. But they are also a group of players likely to make the extra pass and execute to perfection. They play with such ease that their head coach, Steve Kerr, has missed the last 10 playoff games because of complications from a back surgery and they haven’t missed a beat.
It’s gorgeous to watch, but it will all be coming to an end soon. Because the Warriors, in this era of sports, can’t possibly hope to keep all these players paid and happy.
Wait. They can.
There’s a good chance there will be several more years of this beautiful, championship-caliber basketball coming out of the Bay Area.
That’s great news if you love great basketball. It’s terrible news if you’re a Timberwolves fan.
This conclusion was reached after taking an admiring/depressing look at Golden State’s salary cap situation.
First off, there is basically no meaningful dead weight to be found anywhere on their cap — no expensive buyouts, no long-term contracts they regret. All of their highest-paid players are key contributors.
Ah, but Stephen Curry will cash in this offseason when he’s a free agent. He’s “only” making $12 million this year — a sum that still probably lets him afford a one-bedroom condo in San Francisco but just the 73rd-highest total of any NBA player this season.
Yes, Curry is set to make a huge jump in salary – in line for an obscene five-year, $205 million deal. Durant, too, can opt-out of his deal and sign a massive four-year deal. So the Warriors are in trouble, right?
Nope. Assuming both players re-sign with Golden State — and who wouldn’t want to have fun and win rings in one of the greatest cities in the world? — the Warriors will still be in decent cap shape because Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are under contract for two more and three more years, respectively, on deals that will pay them barely more per season than Gorgui Dieng makes with the Wolves.
There might come a time in a few years where the Warriors have to make a hard roster decision, but as long as they have three of the four above-mentioned players, they will be title contenders. And the NBA salary cap will also continue to rise, helping them get creative.
So that’s what the Wolves (and the rest of the West) are up against. Minnesota, in theory, has the young talent to form a contender someday. But Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine have already played three seasons of their rookie deals and Karl-Anthony Towns has played two. Around the time the Warriors might face any hard salary decisions, a bunch of these young Wolves will be looking to cash in with big contracts of their own.
That doesn’t mean Minnesota can’t become a playoff team. It does mean it will take a healthy mix of good fortune, timing and the unexpected demise of the Warriors to become anything more than that anytime soon.
Might as well get used to this beautiful [redacted] basketball.