With an expiring contract, rising stock, an astute agent and an employer that loves him, Klay Thompson is positioned to receive one of the largest contracts in Warriors history.
The Warriors say they want to reward him. But giving him an extension before the Oct. 31 deadline, without first clearing salary-cap space, could force the team into the luxury tax in 2015-16.
Not giving Thompson an extension over the next 45 days, however, means waiting until next summer, when teams will be lining up to massage Klay's back, peel his grapes and throw money at his feet.
It's quite the predicament, and the Warriors ran right into it.
Four players currently account for more than $50 million of the salary cap: David Lee at $15.5 mil, Andrew Bogut at 12.0, Andre Iguodala at 11.7 and All-Star point guard Stephen Curry at 11.4.
Legitimate questions about Curry's durability lowered his value, but he has stayed healthy and flourished. He's a bargain. The Warriors gambled and won.
Bogut received the going rate for big men who make a difference. His durability is an issue. But the Warriors, yearning for paint presence, can't have regrets.
They might second-guess Iguodala's deal, and they certainly could second-guess making Lee the team's highest-paid player for the past four seasons.
As of today, the Warriors are the only NBA team entering 2014-15 with four players making more than $11 million. And all four also are under contract for 2015-16.
Thompson, seeking a deal well beyond $11 mil per year, would make five, which would put the Warriors in the same fix as the rainmaking Nets. Their owner, Mikhail Prokhorov and net worth $10.9 billion, shrugs and pays the luxury tax.
The Warriors want to avoid this. They don't want to write a check for their own failure to plan. And they knew this day was coming. With Thompson entering the final year of his rookie deal, making $3.1 million, the Klay bill is due.
If the Warriors don't extend Thompson, they face the prospect 10 months from now of matching an offer sheet, as the Jazz did when the Hornets signed Gordon Hayward this summer. Then, too, they could lose Klay, as the Rockets lost Chandler Parsons.
Furthermore, doing nothing now also would send a couple curious messages. 1) If Curry and Bogut deserved proactive extensions, why not Thompson? 2) If you're prepared to give Kevin Love a max deal, why not give it to the guy you kept?
Yet for Thompson to get anything close to the max deal desired by his agent, Bill Duffy, one of his teammates must go. Or else the Warriors will be stung by the tax.
Curry is going nowhere, and neither is Bogut. Will anyone take Lee and his contract, which expires in 2015-16? Could the Warriors shop Iguodala? Might they decide to go without a bench?
Duffy believes Thompson is the finest two-way (offense/defense) shooting guard in the NBA. Some argue this. I won't. And the Warriors can't, not after essentially choosing Thompson over Love.
James Harden avoids defense. Dwyane Wade's 75-year-old knees won't let him play defense as he once did. Joe Johnson, now 33 and scheduled to make $23 million, never defended as Thompson does. DeMar DeRozan is the best of the rest, which includes Arron Afflalo, who can defend with Klay but doesn't score as well.
As for Kobe Bryant, well, as Duffy pointed out to Sam Amick of USA Today, Kobe's current abilities are a mystery. We know only that he's 36, with 19 years in hard mileage and a left leg held together by shoestrings and Scotch tape.
Thompson opened eyes with his work in the World Cup tournament. His offense continues to improve. He was Team USA's best two-way perimeter player. Nobody who has watched Klay's ascent was surprised. This is why executive board member Jerry West and first-year head coach Steve Kerr resisted the inclusion of Thompson in proposals to obtain Love.
Warriors CEO Joe Lacob has consistently stated he intends to keep Thompson. Well, the moment is at hand. There will be pain, no matter his choice.
The salary cap is $63.1 mil this year, the luxury tax threshold set at $76.8. Those numbers will go up several million dollars in 2015-16 and make an appreciable jump in 2016-17.
General manager Bob Myers and Lacob know other teams will be pushing and shoving each other to throw money at Klay. They have a chance to crush the rush. Not doing so would deviate from all they say.
Moreover, it would tick off West. Not even the boss wants to do that.