Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
If the injury is an Achilles tear, the repercussions could spread throughout the NBA. It’s an injury that would very likely cost Durant, long expected to opt-out of his deal and become a free agent, the entire 2019-20 regular season.
The recovery from an Achilles tear is a long, tough road and there is a distinct fear that the player may never return to his former self on the court. Durant’s injury is not just something that could change the course of his career, it’s something that will significantly impact free agency this summer.
It’s been long assumed that Durant would leave Golden State this summer to join a new team. However, if this injury is as bad as it seems, Durant may decide to opt-in and take his $31.5 million to stay with the Warriors through is rehabilitation. It’s hard to imagine a team giving Durant a lot of money to sit out a year and have questions about how good he’ll be whenever he returns. Staying with the Warriors might be his only choice.
The Warriors have had a somewhat charmed path to their dynasty. Bob Myers didn’t draft Steph Curry, who was hobbled by injuries during his early career, leading to a rather discounted second contract with the team. The Warriors also lucked out with Draymond Green, who was taken in the same draft as Harrison Barnes–on whom the Warriors used the 8th overall pick (and if the Warriors believed that Green was, in fact, the better player, they took an inexcusable risk by letting him drop to the second round). If Curry doesn’t sign a bargain basement deal because of his ankle problems, the Warriors don’t have room to sign Durant in 2016. And while I consider Draymond to be highly overrated, he’s unquestionably better than Harrison Barnes.
However, fortunes change, and if KD did, indeed, tear his Achilles last night, then the Warriors dynasty is almost certainly over–and, unfortunately, the best years of KD’s career are almost certainly over as well. KD’s 30, but he’s also been in the league a dozen seasons, and has missed significant time four out of the last five years. I’ve always had doubts about his durability. He may be seven feet tall, but his body is not built to take the pounding that guys in the NBA take.
Now, if the worst case scenario plays out, the Warriors will be paying for KD’s recovery, which seems appropriate given the discounted deals they’ve signed him to, and the entire NBA free agency dynamic just shifted overnight.
This affects Boston a few different ways: By reducing the amount of talent available, it drives up the price for all of it. That’s good news for David Griffin and the Pelicans, because a team that was holding back on the AD sweepstakes because they preferred KD is now faced with a choice–make AD a priority, or make another free agent a priority.
The cost of acquiring AD likely just went up, and the Celtics will likely have more suitors to work against with Kyrie.
At the same time, “Kyrie and KD teaming up on the (Nets/Knicks)” isn’t going to happen (side note: it probably never was).
Although the competition for Kyrie’s services will be greater in a free agent market without KD, I still believe that a team looking to draw Irving away from the Celtics will have to offer him a clearer path to the Finals than Boston can offer (I don’t think Kyrie cares about much else).
From where I’m sitting, there’s not another team in the league with a max slot that can do this. The Knicks and Lakers are disaster areas, while the Clippers are definitely more than one player away from contending. The Nets are young(ish) and up-and-coming. They might have been the most attractive landing spot for Kyrie outside of Boston, if they were in a position to land Kyrie and KD simultaneously, but that was never a likely scenario, and now it’s not going to happen.
Also, I think that the Celtics were going to be priced out of the AD market even before this happened to KD. Griffin’s asking price, an all star, a potential all star and two picks, was always going to be a bit steep for Boston, and Griffin–or his minions–releasing those terms to the media strongly implies that he expects to get a full offer.
At the same time, things just got very pricey or very dicey for Golden State.
The GSW dynasty was always going to be in trouble next summer. The cost of keeping Draymond Green while paying max salaries to Klay and Steph would leave GSW footing an enormous tax bill while fielding a team consisting of those three guys and a dozen other players on minimum contracts, at the same time, letting Green go would leave the team with no easy means of filling the gap he’d leave in the lineup.
Instead, it looks like the day of reckoning has arrived a year early. In order to re-sign Klay, the Warriors will have, basically, the entire 2019/20 soft cap tied up in three guys: Klay (~$35M), Steph (~$40M), and KD (~$31M). If the Warriors re-sign Klay, they will be in the 425% tax bracket, and could (if they end up, say, $8,500,000 into the 425% tax bracket) be paying dang near $100M in luxury tax*.
Golden State will either have to pay through the nose to keep Klay and Draymond, or they’ll let them walk, knowing that they have no cap space for free agent signing and a meagre supply of talent that they can package in a trade for another impact player. Neither scenario can be particularly attractive to the team.
*Actual amount: $99,875,000 ($5,000,000 * 1.5 + $5,000,000 * 1.75 + $5,000,000 * 2.5 + $5,000,000 * 3.25 + $5,000,000 + $5,000,000 * 3.75 + $8,500,000 * 4.25)