The Golden State Warriors (28-28) are positively mediocre this year, despite Stephen Curry's recent attempts to save his franchise from missing the playoffs. They've won four straight, but they may still need to get through the NBA's play-in tournament to earn a postseason berth. Failing that, they're only hurting their lottery chances.
Meanwhile, the franchise is a .500 team with the highest total payroll ($168.8 million) in the league. A sizable amount is on the shelf with Klay Thompson earning $35.6 million while recovering from an offseason Achilles tear. Losing Thompson for a second straight year after a 2019 knee injury was a gut punch.
Add in a tax bill in the $77 million range (after the NBA discounts teams for lost revenue throughout the pandemic), and the team is on the hook for about $246 million for a roster that may need to win two play-in games for a crack at teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns and L.A. Clippers.
Will Thompson’s return next season catapult the Warriors back into contention? How long will the front office pay top dollar for a non-contender? Should it cash out the young players and picks for additional veteran star power, embrace the rebuild or continue to straddle the line between the two with Curry as the face of a team holding onto its past glory?
Curry may single-handedly will the Warriors to the playoffs, but one more losing skid could prompt rotation changes to evaluate talent for next year. That Curry is earning more this season ($43 million) than anyone in NBA history makes it a bit easier to get over pangs of sympathy for their superstar.
Golden State will have many difficult questions to answer in the coming months, but the ticking clock is from Curry's impending free agency. The All-Star is under contract for just one more season at $45.8 million, after which he'll become an unrestricted free agent.