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Lebron to Warriors??

February 4, 2018

LeBron to the Warriors?!

 

There is a rumor that LeBron will take a free agent meeting with the Warriors this summer. If this is true and he is planning to take a meeting, then he is considering signing with them. LeBron said the story was nonsense but he only refuted that he is currently planning to meet with any NBA team. He did not say outright that he won’t consider signing with Golden State. So how would this work? Does Golden State have cap space? Why would LeBron sign with the Warriors to begin with? What would the team look like after adding him? We have your answers!

 

Does Golden State Have Enough Cap Space?

 

The short answer is ‘no.’ Here is a look at the Warriors’ payroll for 2018-19:

Warriors 2018-19 Team Payroll

Player

Salary

Stephen Curry

$37,457,154

Kevin Durant

$26,250,000

Klay Thompson

$18,988,725

Draymond Green

$17,469,565

Andre Iguodala

$16,000,000

Shaun Livingston

$8,307,692

Damian Jones

$1,544,941

Jordan Bell

$1,378,252

Jason Thompson*

$945,126*

Team Payroll

$128,341,465

Projected 2018-19 NBA Salary Cap

$101,000,000

Projected 2018-19 Cap Space

-$27,341,000

* - Jason Thompson was waived via the stretch provision in 2016 so he is not on the roster but his contract takes up cap space.

 

That’s right, the Warriors have NEGATIVE $27 million in cap space next year with only 8 players under contract. The maximum contract for LeBron James next year since he has 10+ years of experience is 35% of the cap, or a projected $35.35 million. Now you say, “what if LeBron accepts less than the maximum?” LeBron has taken pay cuts in the past for the benefit of the team, but he has been outspoken in recent years that he believes he needs to set an example for the rest of the players in the league and command the maximum salary, which is less that what he is worth to a franchise. So moving forward, we are going to assume that the Warriors would have to offer LeBron the maximum salary or at least close to the maximum salary.

How Would They Clear Cap Space?

$27,341,000 + $35,350,000 = $62,691,000

That is the amount of salary that they would near to clear to sign LeBron with cap space. So who are they 100% retaining through this roster makeover? Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. Everyone else is expendable in this scenario. Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala are the easiest cap casualties because players of slightly less value can be added to the team for much less money. The Warriors would need to find trade partners for those two players, and they could likely net 2nd round picks and dead waivable salary in return for those two players, opening up about $24 million in salary. This leaves $34 million of remaining salary to open up. As much as it would hurt the franchise to do so, they would also need to part ways with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Trading these two players would diminish the talent on the team significantly. If the Warriors do not want to lose both Curry and Green, they would need some cooperation from the Cavs. There are two other options: opt-in and trade or sign-and-trade

Opt-in and Trade

LeBron has a player option for this year which he could pick up and remain as a Cavalier for one season, but that is widely unexpected to happen. If LeBron knew that he wanted to sign with the Warriors before free agency started, he could opt-in to his contract with the understanding that he will be traded to the Warriors. This seems like a highly unlikely scenario since he wouldn’t be able to meet with any other teams. The Cavs would also have the ability to keep LeBron or trade him to any other team if they chose to do so.

Sign-and-trade

This is probably the best option for the Warriors. The team would have to trade either Klay Thompson or Draymond Green to the Cavs along with Andre Iguodala and probably a future draft pick. One problems with this option is that it requires cooperation for Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers who may not want to do so. LeBron would also have to sign a deal for a minimum of three years guaranteed, which is longer than what he has been signing in recent years. For the sake of roster construction, let’s assume a sign-and-trade deal involving Draymond Green is the most likely option. So who is left on the team?

  • Stephen Curry
  • Kevin Durant
  • LeBron James
  • Klay Thompson
  • Jordan Bell
  • Damian Jones

How Would They Fill Out The Roster?

They still have options. Let me list them off:

  • 2018 Draft Picks
  • Taxpayer Mid-level Exception
  • Minimum Salary Players

They own their first round pick, but not their second round pick. This pick can be signed without cap room, which brings their roster size up to 7 players.

The mid-level exception for team who paid the luxury tax is about $5.3 million which they could use to sign a low-end starter or veteran shooting guard to replace Klay in the lineup. This would bring the roster size to 8 players, meaning the Warriors would need to sign 5 players to minimum contracts. With three top 5 NBA players, they could attract a lot of veteran roll players to sign minimum salaries in hopes of winning a ring. But would that be enough to make up for the lost players?

Would Signing LeBron Be Worth It?

This is difficult to answer. Draymond and Iggy have been pivotal to the Warriors success, and they are the best defenders on the team, but signing LeBron would simultaneously cripple their biggest rival. If LeBron wants to play for the Warriors, they should probably make it happen.

How Would This Affect LeBron’s Legacy?

I would personally lose A LOT of respect for LeBron if he signed for the one team that is consistently in his way of a ring. This would leave a stain on all his accomplishments, proving that he chased rings more than any other legendary player, and he could not win a championship with a normal supporting cast around him. I would have to drop him on my all-time rankings significantly. In all seriousness, though, it is plausible that LeBron could win 3 more rings with this fantasy Warriors team, which would launch him to the top of most analysts all-time lists. LeBron would be killed by the media for a year or so, but then everyone would forget how he sold out. Everyone forgave him for building a super team with the Heat and everyone forgave Durant for joining the Warriors, so I suspect the media would have a short memory with this signing as well.

Will This Happen?

I doubt this happens, but as far-fetched as this scenario seems, it is not impossible. Moreover, it would probably be a good business move for both parties. LeBron has a history of leaving teams when times get tough, and the Warriors have a history of signing star players from rival teams, so I can’t rule out LeBron in Golden State.

 

- Jeffrey Pulver, ATG Sports Writer

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