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On Warriors' Big 3 Possibility In 2016

I was inspired by a piece from Tim Kawakami to do a walkthrough of how I think about a situation like the Golden State Warriors adding a max player in the summer of 2016.

Like Tim, I will use a conservative estimate of a $75 million salary cap for that 2016-17 season, though I will throw in some figures of how it would work with a $80 million cap that could be closer to what we actually see two summers from now.

The Non-Negotiables

When looking that far in the future, I strip the entire salary structure down and start with only the mandatory pieces. If we are talking about Golden State and a max player in 2016, that means just Stephen Curry and the max player. We know Curry’s 16-17 salary, but the other guy’s is a mystery right now. Fortunately, if that other player is Kevin Durant we can work it out.

The most Kevin Durant can be paid for the 16-17 season is the larger of 30% of the salary cap (calculated slightly differently than the actual salary cap) and 105% of his salary from the previous season. Even at a conservative $75 million salary cap, Durant would make more under the 30% calculation.

At a $75 million salary cap, the Warriors would have to carry $40.39 million or less in non-Curry salary to sign Kevin Durant with cap space. At an $80 million cap, this number jumps to about $43.89 million. For reference, LeBron’s max is about $4 million higher than Durant’s due to his greater amount of NBA experience.

The Money on the Books

That remaining $40.39 million or so can come from any source but must include everything if the Warriors are to sign a max player using cap space. That means on the books salaries as well as cap holds to pending free agents and clearing the space would also mean no trade exceptions and the much smaller Room Mid-Level Exception.

At present, the Warriors have about $30 million committed to Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Nemanja Nedovic for that season. It should be noted that Nedovic’s contract is a team option and Livingston’s contract is reportedly about half-guaranteed, so there would be a little wiggle room if either is still in the equation at that point.

The players not counted that the Warriors would presumably want to retain include 2015 restricted free agents Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Their combined price tag is larger than the $10 million remaining (there’s a chance each of them gets that much, though I expect Thompson to get much more and Green less) so that means Bob Myers would need to make some choices. When you add in Harrison Barnes hitting restricted free agency that summer the situation gets even more challenging.

Both Iguodala and Bogut will be expiring contracts that season and we know that teams will be clearing cap space with reckless abandon to acquire a star or two so there could be interest in either or both should they age reasonably. Depending on the salary they get, either Thompson or Green could price himself out of a spot on that 2016 Warriors team as well. If the Warriors want to sign someone to a max deal using cap space, at least one and likely two of Bogut, Iguodala, Thompson and Green will need to go.

The Bigger Swings

As I said before, you can see that $40.39 million for players beyond Curry and Durant in a series of different ways: it could be retaining existing  players either currently on their deals or signing new ones soon, adding new players via free agency or trades, or some combination of the two.

By far my favorite possibilities for Golden State in 2016 come from using that $40.39 million more aggressively. The Warriors have an elite player locked up to a below-market contract and should be close to a new arena and presumably a larger revenue stream from that and their local TV deal which expires at the end of the upcoming season. Furthermore, I sincerely doubt we see a hard cap in the new CBA so playing the free agency game for a soft cap and heavy luxury tax payments makes the most sense. Plus, building a strong core then makes it a near certainty that Stephen Curry would stick around when he hits unrestricted free agency the following year.

If they could clear the money, the Warriors could actually sign two max players even at the higher 35% salary slot and still keep Curry. Doing so would require some major sacrifices at some point since the team has so many other assets. Fortunately, the fact that other teams will be clearing the decks too means that Golden State would not have to be particularly proactive unless someone’s contract looks substantially worse two summers from now. That said, we have no idea how willing other franchises would be to enable a team to have a core of Stephen Curry and two of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol, Al Horford and Goran Dragic. That said, each individual piece holds value right now so the sales pitch would be much easier. This approach worked reasonably well for the Rockets with Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik even though the end result may not have been to their liking.

This concept of a core with three max players also helps explain why moving Klay Thompson to get Kevin Love makes so much sense if Love is willing to commit to staying long-term. Even if Love takes the most money he can, the Warriors could still open up another max slot in 2016 without too much trouble as long as the league does not play some serious hanky panky with the new TV deal and the cap. We know right now that Thompson will command a massive salary on his next contract and a team with one of the best young players in the sport should be able to command someone better than Thompson to be the No. 2 or even No. 3 player, as good as Thompson could become. While the Warriors have a strong team right now, a foundation of three All-Stars in their mid to late twenties would be legitimately special regardless of what other teams around the league can manage that summer.

Bob Myers and the rest of the Warriors’ front office have some major decisions to make but the combination of Stephen Curry’s below market contract and the expanding salary cap create some genuinely compelling options.

Five College Teams That Will Play Slower In 2014-15

Tulsa: Frank Haith took a Missouri team that was 14th in the nation in tempo and slowed the team down to 163rd in the nation. He now inherits a Tulsa team that is 79th in the nation in tempo, and a similar slow-down seems likely. But Tulsa fans won’t be complaining if Haith matches what he did in his first year at Missouri. Even though Missouri’s pace was slower, because his team played in a more controlled style, Missouri had the top offense in the nation and won the Big 12 Conference Tournament title.

Central Arkansas: Former head coach Corliss Williamson learned to play fast as a player under Nolan Richardson. And while Williamson didn’t win at a high level at Central Arkansas, he was able to implement a high octane attack. After he left to become an assistant in the NBA, interim head coach Clarence Finley maintained that same up-tempo attack with the team. New head coach Russ Pennell isn’t necessarily a slow coach, but he is unlikely to maintain the pace of the previous staff.

Maine: Former head coach Ted Woodard was Maine’s coach for a decade. Unfortunately, his final season was his worst, as his team won only 6 games. But if his team was going to lose, at least he let his players have some fun on the court. His final season was also his fastest team, as Maine was the 3rd fastest team in the nation. Bob Walsh is in his first season as a D1 head coach, but he probably won’t implement quite as quick a pace as he tries to let a new group of players learn on the job.

California: New head coach Cuonzo Martin’s fastest paced team ranked only 194th in the nation. Cal’s pace was never ranked that low under Mike Montgomery. Martin had dominant margin-of-victory numbers last year, and won three games in the NCAA tournament, so Cal fans may not mind if his team plays slow, as long as he wins.

Pace Rank

Mike Montgomery

Cuonzo Martin

2014

191st

323rd

2013

163rd

274th

2012

120th

194th

2011

66th

309th

2010

133rd

250th

2009

132nd

280th

Tennessee now has the oddest profile of “firing” head coaches of almost any school. They let Jerry Green leave after he made the NCAA tournament in every season as head coach. Bruce Pearl left after making the NCAA tournament in every season. And now Martin left after making the NCAA tournament. On paper, none of that makes any sense, but when you understand the background, it does. Green failed to live up to high expectations set for the team early in his tenure. Pearl was let go because of recruiting violations. And Martin was fired because he played a boring style of basketball and couldn’t live up to the high expectations set by Bruce Pearl. While I wish new head coach Donnie Tyndall nothing but the best, you do wonder whether Tennessee can every find a way to have, enjoy, and keep a winning coach. 

Oregon St.: New head coach Wayne Tinkle has traditionally had one of the slowest teams in the nation. He sped things up for two years when Montana went 15-1 and 19-1 in the Big Sky conference in 2012 and 2013, but his team still had a below average tempo. To put it another way, Tinkle has never played as fast as Craig Robinson did at Oregon St. last year.

Pace Rank

Craig Robinson

Wayne Tinkle

2014

139th

344th

2013

60th

258th

2012

15th

197th

2011

37th

304th

2010

324th

310th

2009

343rd

307th

Of course coaches do sometimes change their approach. Robinson started off as a slow-paced coach and sped up at Oregon St. when he thought he had the right personnel. It didn’t result in enough wins, because Oregon St.’s defense was too poor, but Robinsons track record shows that coaches will sometimes change their approach. But with Tinkle coming in, a slower season is the safer bet.

Chris Bosh's Return Keeps Heat Relevant

When LeBron James decided to return to Cleveland, everyone expected Chris Bosh to sign with the Houston Rockets and form a new Big Three. Instead, in the second most shocking move of the day, Bosh stayed with the Miami Heat, signing a five-year $118 million extension.

After four years in the shadow of LeBron and Dwyane Wade, Bosh is once again back in the spotlight - he will have to be the franchise player he once was with the Toronto Raptors and that the Heat are paying him to be. 

While Bosh has had a secondary role with Miami over the last four seasons, he’s still one of the most potent scorers in the NBA. The Heat offense was based around spacing the floor for LeBron and Wade. They both got large stretches of time running the second unit, while Bosh rarely got a chance to play without at least one of them on the floor. He didn't get many post-ups or isolations - his points primarily came within the flow of the offense.

Bosh went from a usage rating of 28.7 in Toronto to 22.3 in Miami and from 16.5 field goal attempts a game to only 12. Despite being used like a role player, he kept making All-Star teams because of how remarkably efficient he was, averaging 16 points on 52% shooting last season. Those are the efficiency numbers you would expect from a first option forced to play a smaller role. Bosh took a step back for the good of the team, not any decline in skills. 

When he was given a chance to play without Wade or LeBron, he showed he still had the ability to fill it up. The most notable instance came in a game against the Portland Trail Blazers, where he scored 37 on 15-26 shooting, including the game-winning three. If he regularly got the chance to put up 20+ FGA’s a night, he would have some huge scoring games. He can score at will - at 6'11, he's an elite shooter, ball-handler and athlete for a player his size.

As the primary option for Toronto, Bosh averaged 24 points, 11 rebounds and 2.5 assists on 52% shooting. He was carrying that franchise - Andrea Bargnani was the second leading scorer and Hedo Turkoglu was their third. Without Bosh, the Raptors went from 40 wins to 22 and became one of the worst teams in the NBA. This year’s team, which made the playoffs for the first since time since he left, has only two players remaining from his teams. 

And while he isn't quite as explosive as he was in his mid 20’s, he's a much improved player. The biggest difference is the three-point shot - he went from taking 0.3 a game in 2010 to 3.2 in 2014. Not only does the it open up the floor, the shot gives Bosh more space to attack his defender. Opposing big men can't leave him alone on the three-point line and very few can move their feet well enough to guard him when he's handling the ball 25+ feet from the basket.

It's hard to say exactly what his scoring averages will look like next season, but they should go up fairly dramatically. If he gets 15+ FGA's, he could easily be at 23-25 points on a very high percentage, which would put him back in the discussion with guys like Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love for best PF in the NBA. He's not the rebounder they are, but he's the most complete player of the bunch, with the ability to score, shoot, pass and defend.

Passing is one of the other elements of Bosh's game that he hasn't gotten the chance to utilize in the last four seasons. He had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio for most of his time in Toronto - he can find guys off the dribble as well as hit cutters out of the post. Featuring Bosh, letting him play with the ball in his hands a lot more and expanding his role in the offense will be one of the primary ways the Heat adjust to life without LeBron next season.

LeBron's departure means Wade will resume his role of face of the franchise, but there's little question whose the better player of the two stars left in Miami. Wade's been in steady decline due to his waning athleticism and lack of an outside shot, but Bosh’s game, based on length and shooting ability, will allow him to be a high-level player indefinitely. Even if LeBron had stayed, they would have needed to reorient the offense around Bosh as the 2nd option. 

Losing LeBron creates a gaping hole on both sides of the ball and it’s hard to see a scenario where Miami competes for a title without him. They also have much less room for error, especially with Wade’s knees.

If Wade can only play 50+ games, Miami no longer has the firepower to compete without him. Going forward, they will need to do a better job of filling out their supporting cast than they did when they had LeBron. Nevertheless, all is not lost.

There's no way to replace the best player in the world, but he's not leaving behind a completely empty cupboard in South Beach. Josh McRoberts is a massive upgrade from the various players - Rashard Lewis, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem - who shared the frontcourt with Bosh last year.  Bosh and McRoberts upfront will give the Heat some of the best floor spacing in the NBA. And with Luol Deng at SF, they have the nucleus of a 50+ win team. 

Chris Bosh is a 9-time All-Star who has averaged 19 points a game on 50% shooting in his career. He's a primary option who also doubles as a high-level interior defender and floor spacer. Even when he wasn’t putting up big numbers, he was one of the most valuable players in the NBA - the only other big man in the who can dribble and shoot 3's like him is Dirk Nowitzki. Bosh can't fill LeBron's shoes, but as long as he's around, Miami will be relevant.

Orlando Summer League, Final Recap

On Casper Ware and the 76ers, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope winning MVP, plus strong performances from rookies Nick Johnson, Jarnell Stokes, Jordan Adams and Elfrid Payton.

LeBron Opens Up His Own Finishing School In Northeast Ohio

The end game for LeBron James is not to bring one title to Cleveland, but to bring a franchise that could compete for titles well into the future. When LeBron watched the Spurs dismantle the Heat in the Finals, he saw what to strive for.

The Human Element

The best players in the sport have transitioned from supermen to businessmen to being a business, man, at the same time the league as a whole transitioned from family owned teams to major enterprises. Like it or not, this NBA should be around for a long, long time.

Orlando Summer League, Day 5 Recap

Marcus Smart, two Indiana guards performed well and Casper Ware continued to impress. Hereís the top stories from Wednesday.

The Law Of Small Numbers

While taking a quick glance at the market for Kevin Love around draft day could have led to confidence for the Warriors, any concept that letting the string play out would be to their advantage would be deeply misguided.

Grading The Deal: Celtics Capitalize In Three-Team Deal With Cavs, Nets

Itís hard to assume what else the Celtics could have done with the $10.3 million trade exception, but receiving what they did is a very nice haul. Adding a seven-footer to your rotation and a first-round pick is an obvious win, but Thorntonís expiring deal brings other options as well.

Orlando Summer League, Day 4 Recap

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's game-winner, impressive performances from Philadelphia's rookies, Jarnell Stokes and more.

Orlando Summer League, Day 3 Recap

On Willie Reed, Elfrid Payton, Jeremy Lamb and all of the action from Day 3 of the Orlando Summer League.

Orlando Summer League, Day 2 Recap

The second day of the Orlando Summer League saw the Grizzlies, Pistons, 76ers, Thunder, Heat and Nets take the floor. A pair of Long Beach State players impressed, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope continued his success and Shabazz Napier rebounded.

Orlando Summer League, Day 1 Recap

Nerlens Noel, Mason Plumlee, Shabazz Napier, Marcus Smart and Pierre Jackson had notable days as Summer League began.

Why Sign-And-Trades Sometimes Aren't Possible For The Incumbent Team

Teams on the giving end of potential sign-and-trades rarely are unable to participate, but the Nets were unable to with Shaun Livingston's deal with the Warriors.

Grading The Deal: Celtics Keep Avery Bradley

The Celtics seem confident Avery Bradley will be healthy and that heís not done developing.

The Market For Lance Stephenson

No matter how strong the mutual interest in between the Pacers and Lance Stephenson, itís money that determines most offseason decisions.

Jason Kidd's Great Escape

If Jason Kidd plays it right, he can be the Scott Brooks to their version of the Thunder. Kiddís already proven heís a more flexible strategist than Brooks, so hitching his wagon to that type of young talent could give him nearly unparalleled job security.

What They Said: Rundown From 2014 NBA Draft Night

A deep draft class means there was plenty of consternation regarding who would end up where and that many of the leagueís newest players were in attendance on the biggest night of their life. Hereís a rundown of what they had to say moments after realizing their dream.

Reviewing The 2014 NBA Draft (From A College Perspective)

Notes on Marcus Smart, James Young, Elfrid Payton, Mitch McGary, Julis Randle, Jordan Adams, Adreian Payne and Isaiah Austin.

David West Plays Vital Role In Helping T.J. Warren Realize NBA Dream

T.J. Warren is the first player drafted that worked directly with David West through his AAU Garner Road Basketball Club program.

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