Warriors owner Joe Lacob had to be talked into giving Steph Curry the supermax contract of $200 million. Implied in the Lacob talking to by GM Bob Myers is the Lacob paradox. Outwardly, he finds every opportunity to spike the football in everyone else’s face while behind the scenes he has doubts about his golden parachute. If it seems like Lacob keeps adding chapters to a book on what he doesn’t know, it is because this latest revelation may be a NBA first. An owner who isn’t an apologist for his star player; the star player who happens to be the league’s most popular.
Steph Curry is the face of the Designated Player contract, which is often referred to as the supermax contract. The contract itself is elitism. Only the special reap it’s extraordinary rewards. In the no-brainer case of Curry: he is a back to back MVP winner. He posted one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. He has been in three NBA Finals in a row, and his presence made the Warriors intriguing for Kevin Durant.
It is wasted air to try explain basketball nuances to a businessman like Lacob but turn that particular coin around- Lacob knows a lot about what we don’t know: business profit in a capitalist framework. I will give him credit for his hawkish stewardship. Someone has to watch the money. Someone has to make sure expenditures don’t depress surpluses and create a fiscal tsunami. Because Steph Curry is just the beginning.
More about the supermax contract. To be eligible you have to be a member of the team that drafted you. It is a reward for service and achievement in your unrestricted free agent year, meaning you’ve been in the league eight years. You have to have won the MVP, or Defensive Player of the Year, or All-NBA, two out of the last three years, or All-NBA, the season you are looking for the supermax. That excludes a lot of players. It caused Paul George to want out and Gordon Hayward to jump ship, once they were ineligible due to the All-NBA criteria. Draymond Green won Defensive Player of the Year so he is automatically eligible when his contract comes up in 2020.
But first up is Klay. July 1, 2019 he will be an unrestricted free agent. Next summer, he will be eligible for a max extension to kick in beginning in 2019-20. The extension will be eligible for the supermax ala Russell Westbrook if Klay is All-NBA in 2017-18. He has been All-NBA two out of the last three seasons. But just because you are eligible for something doesn’t mean it comes your way.
Klay has made it known he will take less money to stay in Oakland/San Francisco. But what exactly does less mean and does Klay’s version of less match Joe Lacob’s version of less?
The year Klay is an unrestricted free agent, Joe Lacob will be shelling out $40 million to Steph Curry. That next year, in 2020, Draymond Green will be a free agent. The Warriors may be the first NBA team with a $200 million dollar payroll and a $120 million dollar tax bill. This is why Lacob is fiercely hawkish over the books.
Last season, according to a confidential report revealed by ESPN, the Warriors profited $91 million. If all things stayed equal, three years from now, they would be in the red because of players salaries (unless they get their own television station like the cash rich Lakers and Knicks).
Lacob has to question every dollar spent. The Warriors are his business, his bottom line. The point is to make a profit.
Klay Thompson is playing on a very friendly $17 million dollar deal. The acquisition of Kevin Durant didn’t impact Klay. He took the same amount of shots, made the same amount of shots, took the same volume of threes, made the same number of threes, his efg% was exactly the same, he went to the line the same amount of times as before Durant, he had the same number of rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers and points. His offensive and defensive ratings were near identical to the year before. So what is he worth? A $10 million dollar raise? $15 million?
His defense in the NBA Finals was the difference between the Warriors winning in 5 and winning in 7. Klay has a skill no one on the Warriors can match which makes him valued; he can shut down a perimeter scorer with his length and physicality and getting into his head. He can drop 30 in one quarter, too. How do you put a price on that?
Injuries and motivation are the only thing that can stop the Warriors in 2017-18. But down the line they have a money issue. Joe Lacob isn’t Jerry Buss. He doesn’t look at salaries as rewards for winning titles. He looks at salaries as value incentives that must fall within the margins for profit. They are lines in the sand.
Lacob isn’t emotional and empathic; if he was the Warriors would still call Oakland their home in two years. Lacob lacks humility but he always looks forward. So yes, he can be talked in to paying someone $40 million. But can he be talked out of not paying someone $35 million?
The first clue comes next summer and the Klay Thompson extension. It won’t be agony or ecstasy for Joe Lacob. It will be business.
photo via llananba