Draymond Green, arguably the second-best player that was on the list of 2020 free agents, surprised the NBA world on Saturday by agreeing to a four-year, $100 million extension with the Golden State Warriors. The move cements what’s left of the Warriors’ original core for the foreseeable future, locking up the 29-year-old through the 2023-24 season. Steph Curry is signed through 2022 on a super-max while Klay Thompson just re-upped for five years on a max deal. In an era where stars jump around more than ever from team-to-team, Golden State has positioned itself to have three of its own drafted talents to be around for the long haul.
The returning Warriors should be a fun storyline for the next decade as they try to prove they can win together again without Kevin Durant in the fold. Andre Iguodala was shown the door to make room for some young help in D’Angelo Russell this offseason and that young guard could be a new top-scoring weapon for the long-term or eventually just be dealt for other talents that fit better once Thompson returns from his ACL injury.
The Warriors have a lot of money committed to the future ($140 million to eight players in 2020-21) but they also have options. Perhaps the more fascinating part of Green’s latest deal was his willingness to turn down a chance to chase a max or even supermax offer on the open market. The domino effect on that choice for other 2020 free agents including Jaylen Brown is worth dissecting in full. First, let’s take a look at the decision Green and his agent Rich Paul made here with the Warriors. The versatile forward accepted the largest extension that general manager Bob Myers could have offered him heading into the final year of his original five-year deal under the current CBA. A look at his contract for the next four seasons.
2020-21: $22.2 million
2021-22: $24 million
2022-23: $25.8 million
2023-24: $27.6 million
Total: $100 million over four years
That starting salary for the first year of Green’s extension is over $12 million less than what Green’s starting max salary could have been with the Warriors or another team if he decided to hit free agency in 2020.
A potential max contract offer for Green from Warriors in 2020
2020-21: $35.1 million
2021-22: $37.9 million
2022-23: $40.7 million
2023-24: $43.5 million
2024-25: $46.3 million
Total: $203 million over five years
A potential max contract for Green from non-Warriors team in 2020
2020-21: $35.1 million
2021-22: $36.8 million
2022-23: $38.6 million
2023-24: $40.4 million
Total: $150.9 million over four years
So why exactly did Green turn down the possibility of that kind of a payday in what projects to be a weak 2020 free-agent class? A number of factors come to mind:
A lack of cap room around the league for 2020
Currently, only five teams project to have over $25 million in cap space heading into next season according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Memphis, Toronto). None of the teams on this list project to be anywhere close to contending next summer (Toronto is the only likely playoff team) and that could have served as a deterrent for Green. Would one of them want to offer Green, who turns 30 next summer, that type of money? If so, would have Green even wanted to play for a middling team in the final prime years of his career after contending for the last decade?
Green could have always played the long game here with Golden State, knowing they had no other alternatives in free agency to replace him adequately if he left (they would have been capped out next season with or without him). However, the Warriors could have just been bidding against themselves in this instance if no other suitors emerged next summer. In fact, there may have been no other team that wanted to commit big money for Green over four years on a retooling franchise like the ones listed.
It’s evident here that the Warriors clearly need Green to compete over the long haul and Green needed Golden State if he wanted to be guaranteed a chance to win and a sizable long-term deal. He certainly may have cost himself the chance at far money with this extension but there is no guarantee that cash would have materialized.
He took less than the max ($12.3 million) on his last contract in 2015 and is leaving a lot more on the table now for a chance to cement his legacy in Golden State. He clearly values loyalty here and him taking less gives the Warriors a better chance to commit with the repeater luxury tax looming. Perhaps he also remembered he averaged just 7.4 points per game last year and shot 28.5 percent from 3-point range. His value on the floor goes far beyond the numbers but a down year in 2019-20 with more usage expected could have brought his market down significantly. Green took the safety net now instead.
Ultimately, a slightly smaller version of this type of deal is probably what the Celtics had envisioned for Al Horford before this offseason. A long list of contenders with big cap room emerging (and a disappointing 2018-19 season) gave Horford no real incentive to take the discount from Boston. Green wasn’t going to have the same luxury next offseason with suitors and clearly still wanted to play for a winner, so he elected to stay put now.
How does Green’s deal impact Jaylen Brown’s free agency?