Kurtenbach: The Warriors built a perpetual winning machine. Now they have to pay for it

The Warriors are atop the NBA once again.

This status — once unimaginable for this organization — has become so commonplace that forward Draymond Green has taken to calling the NBA Finals the “Warriors Invitational” after Golden State’s fourth title — and sixth championship-round appearance — in eight years.

Yes, the Warriors might have been down for the two years leading up to this incredible, improbable 2022 championship, but Green and the Dubs know what happens next: Twenty-nine other teams have set their sights on the crown-holder, and they’re going to come hard.

Because the Warriors’ championship this year wasn’t expected, every reason will be given between now and next June as to why the Dubs will be a one-term title winner. Haters are going to hate.

There’s no reason to believe the Dubs can’t win the title again next year.

“I feel like next year we’re gonna be even better,” Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins said Saturday.

He’s probably right.

Let’s start with the astonishing but verifiable fact that when Green, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry start every game of a playoff series, the Warriors have never lost.

Nope, not one series.

That’s a run that dates back to the 2015 playoffs. And until that streak ends, it’d be foolhardy to pick against the Warriors.

With this team’s veteran core, an impressive young core and Wiggins emerging as one of the NBA’s best wings, the Warriors are built for success, not just for next year, but for many years to come.

But while the Warriors are built for annual success, we all know building in the Bay is costly and prices keep going up.

How the Warriors handle this upcoming offseason will go a long way to determining if they can go back-to-back or slide back to pack.

The top impediment to the Warriors repeating as champions next year is green. No, not the player — I’m talking about cold, hard cash.

The Warriors have seemingly endless funds, but we might find the limit in the near future. Golden State is poised to set an NBA record for payroll next season, and that’ll be the case even if they don’t return everyone from their title-winning team.

As of today, Golden State is well over the NBA’s luxury tax threshold with just the contracts they already have on the books for next season. They’re so deep into the tax that they’ll likely have to pay $6 on top of every $1 they spend this offseason.

So buy all the hats, t-shirts and title trinkets you can find, Warriors fans, because Joe Lacob, the Warriors’ CEO, will be banking on that additional revenue to keep this squad together.

Now, Curry, Green and Thompson are locked in for a few years yet — there’s no need to fret there.

But there’s a good reason Wiggins and Jordan Poole shot a video in the Warriors’ locker room after clinching the title where they proclaimed they were about to “get a bag.”

Of money, that is.

Because, well, they are.

Wiggins is going into the final year of his five-year contract, signed with Minnesota and traded to Golden State in 2020. A fair extension would keep Wiggins at his current salary, but after this exceptional performance in the playoffs and Finals, he wouldn’t be out of line to ask for a raise.

“I would love to stay here,” Wiggins said. “Being here is top-notch.”

But brokering a new deal could be tricky for the Warriors, because Jordan Poole, who broke out this past season, is also due a contract extension. The Warriors have until Oct. 17 to agree to a new deal with the incendiary point guard, lest he becomes a free agent this time next summer.

Poole had a historic postseason for a 22-year-old, and as such could command as much as $20 million per year on the new deal. The Warriors should not have to choose between the two, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy to pay both players.

With the Warriors’ luxury tax situation, you can see exactly how much winning costs.

The Warriors spent an estimated $350 million in payroll this season. Next season, that payroll should be well over $400 million, and in the years to come, more than half-a-billion dollars.

One would have to imagine Warriors ownership — even with all the extra playoff revenue and the Chase Center being an ATM for the team — will reach a spending limit at some point.

When that day comes is anyone’s guess, but every offseason, deals are handed out for the next five years. We might get our answer soon.

In the meantime, addressing Wiggins and Poole’s contracts should be the team’s top priority. But regardless of what happens with those negotiations, they are not at risk of losing either for the upcoming season.

The same cannot be said of Kevon Looney, Gary Payton II and Otto Porter, who were all critical to the Dubs this postseason and are all due raises.

Maybe those raises come from other teams. Perhaps the Warriors are helped by a less-than-robust free-agent market.

The good news for the Warriors is that, even if they lose any of those three important role players, they have three young players who could, in theory, take on those jobs. Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody played positive minutes for the Warriors this postseason. Combine their ages and they are only two years older than LeBron James. Both have a bright future ahead of them, with Kuminga having the talent to be a future All-Star.

The Warriors also expect James Wiseman — the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft — to play in 2022-23 after missing this past season with a nagging knee injury.

The Warriors organization might have created a perpetual winning machine.

Whatever the Warriors’ veteran core loses in the years to come, the Warriors’ young players will pick up. All while Wiggins, in his prime at age 27, and hopefully Looney (26) and Payton II (29), too, remain the team’s steady metronomes, eventually becoming the veterans.

It’ll cost a whole lot to maintain, but if this is the price of winning championships, bills will be paid.

So the question isn’t if the Warriors can win another title next season.

No, the real question is how many more can they add before Curry and company hang up their sneakers?

I wouldn’t put a limit on it. Not yet.

Because the Warriors might pay, but betting against them doesn’t.

Contributed by local news sources

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