August 12, 2022

If there was any hope that the Golden State Warriors would hastily secure the return of two of their top free agency targets, that hope seems to be waning.

According to Anthony Slater and Sam Amick of The Athletic (behind a paywall):

“As day one of free agency draws to a close, the distance remains between Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II’s contract desires and the Warriors’ desire to reach that number, sources said. Athleticism. In particular, the odds of Payton leaving the Warriors are growing rapidly, with the internal belief that they are in danger of losing him.

According to the article and Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, Payton II’s biggest suitors and main candidates to take him away from the Warriors are the Portland Trail Blazers:

The Trail Blazers seem to crave the perimeter defense of Payton II, something they’ve lacked throughout the Damian Lillard era. Coupled with his ability to act as a game connector and finisher on offense, he would be a welcome addition to Portland.

That is, unless the Warriors can convince Payton II – through financial and/or cultural means – to stay.

Since the Warriors own the Early Bird rights to Payton II, they can easily match or outbid the Trail Blazers. The question that remains, however, is how prepared Joe Lacob is to foot the exorbitant tax bill that will befall him if the Warriors are successful in retaining Payton II and Looney.

Assuming they both return to the Warriors for whatever amount they want, the aforementioned tax bill – already the most expensive in the league – will increase to an unprecedented amount.

The heist in negotiations with Looney appears to involve the market for high-value role-players. The Dallas Mavericks signed JaVale McGee to a three-year, $20.1 million contract using their mid-tier taxpayer exception. Ivica Zubac joined the Los Angeles Clippers for three years, $33 million.

Looney and his rep could use those numbers to set his worth accordingly. As much as possible, the Warriors are looking to save every dollar they can cut from their tax bill.

Meanwhile, Slater and Amick also dropped this nugget regarding Otto Porter Jr.:

It could work out well financially for the Warriors, who are also still in the running for Otto Porter Jr., currently considering a return to the Warriors with the veteran minimum or more money elsewhere.

That’s not to say Porter Jr. will voluntarily take less money than he could earn elsewhere to return to the Warriors. A career 40% shooter who can plant the boards and is a good team defender is a prized commodity — one that other teams are willing to open their wallets for.