As day one of free agency draws to a close, distance remains between Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II’s contract desires and the Warriors’ desire to meet 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.
Faced with a record tax bill that multiplied every extra dollar spent nearly sevenfold, the Warriors entered free agency intent on avoiding any overpayments the market didn’t demand. They want to bring Looney and Payton back. Both players would prefer a reunion with the defending champions, if the price is right. This is where the current separation exists.
Only a handful of the league’s 30 teams entered free agency with cap space. Most of them were out of contention with roster-building plans that didn’t include a high-priced hunt for Looney or Payton, which fit specific roles best on an already-built winner. Another handful of teams had the full $10.5 million available. This group was seen as the biggest threat to jacking up the Payton or Looney price.
But you can already cross several of these possible landing points off the list. The Kings, under new coach Mike Brown – who led the Warriors defense last season and knows how essential Payton and Looney were to this operation – have spent their money on Malik Monk. The Sixers have signed PJ Tucker. Wizards paid Delon Wright. The Timberwolves landed on Kyle Anderson. All of these contracts were in the mid-tier money order.
This is in line with market forces the Warriors seemed to be anticipating, believing there would most likely be no offers for Looney or Payton beyond the $6.4 million ratepayer mid-tier, meaning that there would be no demand to stretch their per year contract offers far beyond that or, in Payton’s case, up to it.
It’s a risky proposition. The landing spots are drying up, but have not completely disappeared. The Bulls are on the hunt with Boston for Danilo Gallinari. They would need to use a lot of the mid tier to get it. If they don’t, this available money can be transferred to other targets. There was rumor that Looney is on Chicago’s list of next targets, although a late-night deal with Andre Drummond likely changes the equation. Free agency moves fast. A Looney return to the Warriors still seems likely, although he is not done exploring alternatives.
Payton is believed to have offers for the $6.4m Mid-Tier of the Taxpayers on the table, although one of his known suitors – the Mavericks – have spent their Mid-Tier of the Taxpayers to sign JaVale McGee for a three-year contract, erasing one of the Warriors’ biggest Paytons. competitors. Others stay. Portland is considered the strongest current contender, as reported for the first time per Bleacher Report, extending an offer north of $8 million. After several hours of free agency, the likelihood of Payton grabbing one of these competing offers increases.
Looney was one of basketball’s most enduring players a season ago, appearing in all 104 games. He is the well-established starting center for a championship contender and these types of established big men, especially after a title run, usually command contracts spanning eight figures. Ivica Zubac just signed a three-year, $33 million contract with the Clippers.
Payton doesn’t have as long or steady a history with the Warriors as Looney, but he was a defensive revelation for them last season. As a sharp wing and occasional high-screen roller – despite being 6ft 3in – the Warriors unlocked him on offense in a Steph Curry environment, which allowed his disruptive defensive skills to take their toll in the league. He led the NBA in steals by 36 minutes. Perimeter defense is vital to a winning team. Payton is one of the best perimeter defensemen in the league.
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. If they can hold Looney and Payton to reasonable deals, they’ll be able to somewhat contain a tax bill that threatens to shake their roster’s total cost past $400 million next season, a number of Bob Myers once said that Joe Lacob would hesitate to go ahead.
“Did I say that?” Myers joked before free agency began before he got serious. “We’ll watch and see what we can do and I’ll ask Joe what he would allow, but there’s a limit. It’s not unlimited. I wish it was unlimited, but trust me it’s not. You must have constraints on a salary.
Looney was sixth in playoff minutes for the Warriors. Porter finished seventh. Payton finished eighth and would have been higher had he not missed a month after breaking his elbow to come back and change the tenor of the final. These three elements were key components of a championship team. It’s hard to find elsewhere in a dried up market. Due to rising finances, the Warriors are still at risk of losing them, especially Payton, as the time for free agency keeps ticking.
(Photo: Ron Chenoy/USA Today)