OAKLAND — The blue and gold confetti from the championship parade is still littered along the shores of Lake Merritt, yet already, Warriors general manager Bob Myers is facing some big-time decisions that will directly impact the franchise’s ability to keep on collecting rings.
That future begins tonight when Myers and his organizational braintrust will camp out in the war room at the team’s downtown Oakland practice facility, waiting to make the 30th pick of the 2015 NBA Draft.
In the grand scheme, the final selection of the opening round might not seem terribly important, but don’t tell Myers.
“It’s pathetic. I woke up at 4:30 [a.m.] or 5 [a.m.], thinking about who we’re going to draft,” Myers said just days after the team’s first NBA title in 40 years. “And that’s so bad, but that’s the job.”
Recent history indicates that those early mornings have been worth it for Myers and the Warriors. The exec has made a habit of finding gems with relatively late picks. In 2012, Myers stole future star Draymond Green with the 35th pick after taking center Festus Ezeli at No. 30.
This time around, Myers has options. While talk is cheap on draft day, the champs could shock the league by attempting to trade up in the draft. A second option would be to stay at No. 30 and seek out another Green or Ezeli.
If the team follows such a course, watch out for Stanford sharp-shooter Anthony Brown, who is projected to go late in the first-round. The 6-7 guard produced the kind of college track record that suggests he could become a semi-Splash Brother in reserve. During his senior season, Brown rained in 44.1 percent of his shots from beyond the three-point arc.
Yet another option would be to dangle the pick as an incentive to convince another team to take David Lee and his onerous contract off the Warriors’ hands.
Lee is set to make $15.5 million in 2015-16 in the final season of his six-year, $79.5 million contract. The Warriors are working with Lee’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, to find a new home for the former two-time All-Star, who was relegated to a spectator’s role for much of the team’s title run. Still, even Bartelstein admits it won’t be easy to work out a solution.
“It’s a very complicated situation,” Bartelstein said in a phone interview. “We’re going to look at it. We’re going to make sure that every scenario is uncovered and then we’ll put our heads together to figure out what makes the most sense.”
There’s no question that getting rid of the 10-year vet makes the most sense for the Warriors. If the Warriors shell out a max deal to Green, the forward will be raking in a salary of about $15.8 million next season. If the team can’t clear Lee’s salary, the Warriors payroll would go north of $100 million — more than $18 million past the luxury-tax threshold. As a result, the Warriors would actually be on the hook for a bill of almost $150 million.
Owner Joe Lacob has already made it clear that he’s comfortable with entering the tax zone, but the payroll situation could start to spiral out of control if the team isn’t careful.
Next summer, the salary cap is slated to jump from $67.1 million to $89 million. The massive rise will offer the team plenty of financial flexibility, but it will also offer Green’s camp plenty of negotiating leverage this summer. With so much more money becoming available at the end of next season, Green and his representatives are in position to make monster salary demands for years two, three and beyond of the forward’s new deal.
There’s also the Stephen Curry angle to factor into the equation. The MVP makes just $23 million over the next two seasons, but when he hits the market, he could command a salary of $30 million or more per year.
The end game is that in just a couple of years, the Warriors could be staring at one of the largest payrolls in the history of the league.
While keeping one eye on the team’s long-term future, Myers also has difficult decisions to make in the weeks ahead. Leandro Barbosa is a free agent, and the Warriors have a team option of $3.8 million on Marreese Speights.
From the outside, the Barbosa and Speights are just role players who can be easily replaced. From the perspective of head coach Steve Kerr, that’s not the case at all.
“People don’t know it, but he’s one of the most important people on this roster this year,” Kerr said of Barbosa.
Now, it’s up to Myers to make sure all the numbers fit to keep the roster in place for this year and beyond.