SAN FRANCISCO — When Joe Lacob bought the Warriors in 2010, he made it clear his mission was to win. The billionaire businessman has since put his money where his mouth is and now has six NBA Finals appearances and soon-to-be four championship rings to show for it.
But the Warriors’ checkbook might be put to the test this offseason.
The Warriors have seven free agents, including Kevon Looney, Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr. And all three are due for a pay raise after this season’s performances.
Golden State wants to run it back next season as it looks to defend its title, with general manager Bob Myers indicating that the Warriors are going to make an effort to retain as many of their free agents as possible. But will the budget allow them to re-sign and possibly extend key role players? That question is difficult to answer.
“There is a limit, it’s not limitless,” Myers said Wednesday. “I would like it to be limitless, but trust me, it’s not. You’ve got to have some constraints on a salary.”
At the end of last season, Myers admitted that spending over $400 million on payroll might exceed Golden State’s limit. The Warriors dished out a record-setting $350 million between salaries and luxury-tax payments last season, by far the most in the league. The second highest was the Brooklyn Nets, who paid around $270 million.
Lacob repeatedly told Myers that the only way that gigantic payroll would make sense is if the Warriors won the title.
“There was many times where this team did not look like a championship team,” Myers said. “But the pressure I felt in the front office was if we spend this much money and lose in the first round, that would be pretty catastrophic… the only way paying that much money made sense was to think that we could make it this far.
“The same idea would have to take place and take root for next season. If we felt like it could be a championship team, then you do kind of go all-in with all your chips. If we didn’t, we’d probably hold back.”
But the Warriors agreed with Andrew Wiggins’ sentiment that they could be even better next season, and that’s why they seem to be preparing to dig even deeper into their pockets when free agency opens July 1.
Looney and Payton appear to be two of the biggest priorities in terms of re-signing free agents. Looney went from being an injury hazard to the Warriors’ iron man, playing in all 104 games this season. His style complements the Warriors’ trio of stars and his strong playoff showing only fueled Golden State’s desire to re-sign him.
The same can be said for Payton, who went from the last man on the roster to a defensive ace for the Warriors.
Both are unrestricted free agents, which gives them more power to determine their next move as they test the waters, though both have expressed a desire to stay in the Bay Area.
“I don’t know what the market is for a lot of these guys, nor will I. Sometimes you find out with a Woj tweet that a guy is gone,” Myers said. “Thankfully I hope that our players will give us a chance to respond to an offer. They don’t have to, they don’t owe it to us. But that’s what you get if you win and you create a good environment.
“Sometimes the money doesn’t line up for us or them, and then you move on. But our goal, our hope, is to bring all those guys back and try to do it again. They were all great in different ways and all fill different needs for us and all played — a lot of our free agents had big moments in the NBA Finals, which means they’re pretty important.”
Myers will also look to find more diamonds in the rough in free agency as he did with players like Porter, who signed a veteran minimum last offseason.
As for what’s next, Myers said he plans to go to Lacob, as he’s done in past free agency periods, and make a case to go after certain players, outlining the cost and potential.
“We’ve blown through kind of these budget thresholds before,” Myers said. “It doesn’t mean we’ll do it again, it’s pretty case-specific.”
Contributed by local news sources