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How the Warriors can become a new NBA dynasty

The age of super teams may not be over just yet. Golden State's cap management could prove a model for up and coming teams in the future.

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors have exceeded all expectations to this point. They have the best record in the NBA and a 5.5-game cushion in the West. Stephen Curry has evolved into the MVP favorite, Klay Thompson has become a likely All-Star and Draymond Green has become a true stud. The Warriors have a wonderful mix of youth and experience. Their legacy will be set months from now in the postseason, but so far, so good.

The NBA is a salary capped league, and its leadership has been pushing toward harder limits on what teams can spend. The intent is to even the playing field between high- and low-revenue teams and restrict the amount of money owed on bad contracts. The ideal here is the NFL, where teams are able to retool quickly and there's parity at the top of the table. The affirmative story of this push by NBA leadership is that every team should go into the season believing it can be the Warriors.

The other side of that coin -- and every coin does have two sides -- is that it's harder to keep great teams solvent. Harsher luxury tax penalties adopted in 2011 already cost us one super team as the Thunder responded by trading James Harden for youth and picks. One could argue the harsher luxury tax also cost the Heat another two years of LeBron James, considering Miami waived Mike Miller (LeBron's close friend) in 2013 to lessen the team's tax bill. The Clippers have witnessed the issues with living at the tax apron (the salary level at which free agent moves become very difficult to make).

This isn't a new concern in the Bay Area, by the way: More than a year ago analysts were worrying about how Klay Thompson's coming contract would impact the team's ability to stay together. It (accurately) appeared then that Thompson would fit in financially, but that Harrison Barnes could cause problems since his second contract would overlap with Andre Iguodala's deal by one year. Green's arrival as a major component has created an extra hurdle.

As it turns out, the way that the Warriors have timed the team's big contracts may have avoided the drama and could allow Golden State to dominate for years to come.

First, we've learned that David Lee is totally expendable. This is primarily due to Green's stunning rise, Marreese Speights' usefulness off the bench and the plethora of points produced by the starting backcourt. Lee is due $15.5 million in 2015-16, per, on the final year of his contract. Lee missed a big chunk of the season and Golden State didn't miss a beat.

Golden State doesn't need to worry about replacing Lee in 2016 -- Green has already replaced him -- and if the team can find a taker in the 2015 offseason, that's a bonus. (Especially if that team is under the cap or will take him for a trade exception or unguaranteed contract.) Green is going to make a lot of money in free agency this summer, but not $15.5 million. (That's actually not possible, barring a huge jump in the salary cap.)

At worst, the Warriors will have to pay Lee and Green each a bunch of money for one season (2015-16). Including Lee but not Green, Golden State has $77 million tied up already. Adding Green's $10-12 million to that will make for a painful tax payment, but that's just for one season and leaves open the possibility of the Warriors dealing an expiring Lee at the deadline. Golden State can survive that.

What about Barnes, who can sign an extension this summer that would go into effect for the 2016-17 season? He's become a pretty valuable piece of what Golden State does, especially as an effective shooter. By most measures he's been more useful than Iguodala this season. He's also younger and fits the starting lineup exceedingly well.

A prospective new deal for Barnes would overlap with Iguodala's current contract for one season, much like with Green and Lee. But there's a twist here: the NBA salary cap is expected to rocket upward in 2016 due to the newest national TV deal kicking in. The 2016-17 cap should be in the $80-90 million range. Excising Lee from the books, giving Barnes a $10 million annual deal and assuming Green stays at $10-12 million means that, barring other moves, the Warriors would find themselves likely under the inflated tax line in 2016-17 ... even with Iguodala sticking around.

Curry is due a new deal in 2017-18, and would get a massive raise thanks to the new salary cap. But since Thompson and Green will still be on smaller deals, it'll fit without massive tax implications. Here's what all of that looks like in chart form, with salary and tax line estimates in place.

Golden Dynasty

If Warriors' management can swallow one massive tax bill or move Lee a year early, the timeline will work itself out and Golden State's super team can stay together until it runs out of gas. Barring injury, that could mean seven or eight more seasons like this one in the Bay Area. It could mean a new West Coast dynasty.


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