Perhaps the Golden State Warriors don’t look as favorite to win the NBA title this season, but the Dubs can still make some noise and get ready to sign one of the most exciting players on earth in 2021.
What first started as whispers are now huge rumors. Marc Stein of the New York Times first reported in February that the Golden State Warriors would consider pursuing Giannis Antetokounmpo once his contract with the Milwaukee Bucks expires in 2021. This was confirmed by Ramona Shelburne on Monday's episode of "The Jump" on ESPN.
"The Warriors have always been the big threat to go after Giannis," Shelburne said. "One he's friends with Steph Curry, they have that same agency [Octagon], they know each other. It would be a difficult construction to make happen, but that is the one looming threat."
This offseason we learned that NBA teams can add whoever player they want even with the luxury tax. The Warriors did exactly this when they landed D’Angelo Russell via sign-and-trade.
Now that they’re thinking of pursuing Giannis, they need to be ready. Sam Quinn of CBS Sports presented us two methods for the Warriors to land Antetokounmpo once the time comes.
Method 1: Signing Giannis outright
The salary cap for the 2021-22 season is projected to fall at $125 million. Antetokounmpo, as an eight-year veteran, will be eligible for a max contract starting at 30 percent of that total on the open market. The Warriors will need $37.5 million to afford Giannis. Having in mind the players they have under contract for 2021, they will be more than $31 million above the cap, so they’ll need to have at least $70 million to bring the Greek Freak.
They have to pay Shaun Livingston for waiving him, will need to trade their draft picks for 2021 to avoid a rookie scale contract, and would face getting charged for having under than 12 players on their roster during the offseason.
This would leave the Warriors with the options of getting rid of players to save up some money. Kevon Looney, Jacob Evans, Jordan Poole, Alen Smailagic and Omari Spellman will probably leave the team should they decide to go after Giannis. Evans, Spellman, and Poole have team options in their contract, which will highly likely be declined.
After that, things get even harder for the Warriors, who will have to get rid of two stars to make room for Antetokounmpo. They have to pick between Stephen Curry and Klay Thompsom, and even though it won’t be an easy choice, one would assume they’d pick Curry over Thompson. On the other end, Draymond Green would stay with the team because of the history they’ve shared together and D’Angelo Russell would head through the exit door.
This would give the team a bit of cap space after signing Antetokounmpo. Golden State would be left with $3.3 million to spend, and the chance to increase that number to $7.8 million if they trade Spellman, Poole, and Paschall.
Moreover, they could receive two trade exceptions to make things easier for them to land players if they ship Klay Thompson and D’Angelo Russell and don’t get any players in return.
They could well use these trade exception to land players who make up to those amounts (Thompson and Russell's salaries) without sending salary of their own. If they instead receive draft picks in exchange, they’d also have the firepower to add talent through trades.
Once that’s done, the rest of the roster would be filled out with minimum salaries. If somehow they decide to keep Russell and part ways with Green, that would cost him $6 million more, so that money would need to be made up with some of those young players.
This method would have seen Poole and Spellman leaving the team, affecting the extra cap space they could have with Green. This is only the basic method, but if they want to get Giannis via sign-and-trade, things got a little harder.
Method 2: Acquiring Giannis through a sign-and-trade
We’re not saying it’s going to happen, but if the Milwaukee Bucks ever find themselves facing the possibility of losing Giannis for nothing, they could be willing to make things easier and trade him to Golden State. This prospect of a deal would allow the Dubs to retain Klay Thompson and actually make it above the cap if it’s allowed by the CBA.
But, that’s not the end for them. Any team that acquires a player in a sign-and-trade agreement is hard-capped at the apron, a figure that fell around $6.3 million above the cap this offseason. They are dealing with this exact thing right now, thanks to the D’Angelo Russell sign-and-trade.
The projected tax line for the 2021-22 season is currently $151 million. Quinn presents a projected line of $157.5 million for the apron, which will serve as the number that Golden State cannot exceed in this specific scenario. That being said, Curry, Thompson, and Antetokounmpo alone would cost around $121.3 million, leaving the Warriors around $36.2 million left to spend on 12 remaining roster spots.
This means they will have to offload both Green and Russell in the sign-and-trade deal. However, even if they could keep Green’s $24 million salary, that would mean they’d need to actually build a roster with 11 undrafted players, including one starter. Something nobody has ever done, and the Warriors surely won’t seeing how they always look to add depth.
If they send Russell to the Bucks alongside Spellman and draft picks, they could get a trade exception. If they decide to send Green to a different team, the case would be the same. That exception would not allow the Warriors to exceed the hard cap, but it would give them another method to land players.
They would also be able to use the TaxPayer Mid-Level Exception on another free agent worth in the neighborhood of $6.3 million (as projected by HoopsRumors). They would have a lot of scenarios here, but in general, here is how their payroll will look if they use this method:
It’s mandatory to say that these numbers are based on projections, so this is not exactly how things will go down or how the Warriors’ payroll is going to look in two years from now. They’ll have to make some hard choices if they want to land Giannis, or just give up on that idea.
However, the Warriors have done this before, and they could go for it once again in 2021.