The Golden State Warriors continue their offseason machinations, moving a pair of contracts that were only ever so briefly on their books.
As part of the sign-and-trade that sent Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets and brought D’Angelo Russell to Golden State on Sunday night, the Warriors had also acquired Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham. Those two — along with cash — have now been traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves less than 24 hours later.
The news was first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
While the team’s luxury tax situation makes retaining many bench pieces unlikely, the offloading of Napier and Graham allows the Warriors to make a run at re-signing forward Kevon Looney, called a franchise cornerstone by head coach Steve Kerr.
The Warriors had long placed a great amount of importance re-signing Looney, who had a superlative postseason despite a costal cartilage fracture that he suffered during the Finals, and had begun to receive quite a bit of interest from other teams.
Though Golden State has Looney’s Bird rights, the sign-and-trade involving Russell and Durant put constraints on Golden State’s already-difficult salary cap situation, and they may have to clear more cap room to match a more lucrative offer for the 23-year old.
As it stands, the Warriors have gone over the salary cap in each of the last two seasons, and three of the last four. They currently can’t sign any free agent to anything other than the luxury tax payer mid-level exception. Even then, they can’t use the full $5.7 million MLE because of the sign-and-trade. Instead, the highest they can go — right now — is $4.3 million.
That likely means that DeMarcus Cousins (who was on the MLE this season), Quinn Cook, Jonas Jerebko and Andrew Bogut are gone, while Jordan Bell — a restricted free agent — has reportedly already signed with the Timberwolves.
Of that bunch, only Bogut was not expected back before Sunday (he’ll head back to his native Australia to play in the National Basketball League, per an oral agreement with his former club). Golden State would have to either waive or trade point guard Shaun Livingston in order to make more room. If they waive him before July 10, they will only have to pay $2 million of his $7.7 million contract for next season. Golden State could up Livingston’s guarantee, then package him in a trade, and use the money they’d get in the trade exception (the difference between the salary they trade and the salary they get in return) to up the MLE offer to Looney, or to sign someone else.
Given that Damian Jones is the only center currently under contract for next season, locking up Looney is arguably Golden State’s next top priority this offseason.