The Warriors are atop the NBA once again.
This status, once unimaginable for this organization, has become so commonplace that forward Draymond Green was calling the NBA Finals the “Warriors Invitational” Thursday night after Golden State’s fourth title — and sixth championship-round appearance — in eight years.
Because the Warriors’ championship this year wasn’t expected, every reason will be given between now and next June as to why the Dubs will be a one-term title winner.
But there’s no reason to believe the Dubs can’t win again next year.
“I feel like next year we’re going to be even better,” Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins said Saturday.
He’s probably right.
Let’s start with the astonishing but verifiable fact that when Green, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry start every game of a playoff series, the Warriors have never lost.
Nope, not one series.
That’s a run that dates back to the 2015 playoffs. And until that streak ends, it would be foolhardy to pick against the Warriors.
With this team’s veteran core, an impressive young core and Wiggins emerging as one of the NBA’s best wings, the Warriors are built for success, not just for next year, but for many years to come.
Still, while the Warriors are built for perennial success, building in the Bay is costly and prices keep going up.
How the Warriors handle this upcoming offseason will go a long way to determining if they can go back-to-back or slide back to the pack.
The top impediment to the Warriors repeating as champions next year is green. No, not the player — I’m talking about cold, hard cash.
The Warriors have seemingly endless funds, but we might be approaching the time when we find the limit. They are likely to set an NBA record for payroll next season — up from $350 million this season — and that will be the case even if they don’t bring back everyone from this championship team.
As of today, Golden State is well over the NBA’s luxury tax threshold with just the contracts they already have on the books for next season. They’re so deep into the tax that they’ll likely have to pay $6 on top of every $1 they spend this offseason.
So buy all the hats, t-shirts and title trinkets you can find, Warriors fans. Joe Lacob, the Warriors’ CEO, will be banking on that additional revenue to keep this squad together.
Curry, Green and Thompson are locked in for a few years yet — there’s no need to fret there.
But there’s a good reason Wiggins and Jordan Poole shot a video in the Warriors’ locker room after clinching the title where they proclaimed they were about to “get a bag.”
Of money, that is.
And they are not wrong.
Wiggins, 27, is going into the final year of his five-year contract, signed with Minnesota and traded to Golden State in 2020. A fair extension would keep Wiggins at his current salary, but after this exceptional performance in the playoffs and Finals, he wouldn’t be out of line to ask for a raise.
“I would love to stay here,” Wiggins said. “Being here is top-notch.”
Brokering a new deal could be tricky for the Warriors, because Jordan Poole, who broke out this past season, is also due a contract extension. The Warriors have until Oct. 17 to agree to a new deal with the ascendant point guard. Otherwise, he will become a free agent a year from now.
Poole had a historic postseason for a 22-year-old, and as such could command as much as $20 million per year on the new deal. The Warriors should not have to choose between the two, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy to pay both players.
With the Warriors’ luxury tax situation, you can see exactly how much winning costs.
One would have to imagine that Warriors ownership — even with all the extra playoff revenue and the Chase Center being an ATM for the team — will reach a spending limit at some point.
When that day comes is anyone’s guess, but every offseason, deals are handed out for the next five years. We might get our answer soon.
In the meantime, addressing Wiggins and Poole’s contracts should be the team’s top priority. But regardless of what happens with those negotiations, they are not at risk of losing either for the upcoming season.
The same cannot be said of Kevon Looney, Gary Payton II and Otto Porter, who were all crucial this postseason and are all due raises.
Maybe those raises come from other teams. Perhaps the Warriors are helped by a less-than-robust free-agent market.
The good news for the Warriors is that, even if they lose any of those three important role players, they have three young players who could, in theory, take on those jobs. Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody played positive minutes for the Warriors this postseason. Both have a bright future.
The Warriors also expect James Wiseman — the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft — to play in 2022-23 after missing this past season with a nagging knee injury.
The Warriors organization might have created a perpetual winning machine.
Whatever the Warriors’ veteran core loses in the years to come, the Warriors’ young players will pick up. All while Wiggins and hopefully Looney (26) and Payton II (29) remain the team’s steady metronomes, eventually becoming the veterans.
It’ll cost a whole lot to maintain, but if this is the price of winning championships, bills will be paid.
So the question isn’t if the Warriors can win another title next season.
No, the real question is how many more can they add before Curry and company hang up their sneakers?
I wouldn’t put a limit on it. Not yet.
Because the Warriors might pay. Betting against them doesn’t.