Draymond Green claims he took a discount on his 2015 contract extension so the Golden State Warriors could sign Kevin Durant a year later, and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year might not be so generous when he is due for another one next summer, according to ESPN’s Chris Haynes.
“I took less so we could go after KD,” Green told Haynes. “I am a student of this game, and I studied the business side of it and the numbers, where some people don’t. They leave it up to their agent to do it.”
How much could Draymond Green have made in 2015?
Green signed a five-year, $82 million extension in the summer of 2015, when he was 25 years old and not yet an All-Star but still a key cog in Golden State’s first title run and a First Team All-Defensive selection. He was eligible for a five-year, $91 million max extension from the Warriors that summer or a four-year, $68 million max offer in restricted free agency that Golden State could have matched.
Green and the Warriors met somewhere in the middle, just north of the $15 million annual salary Klay Thompson’s father predicted before free agency. We don’t know what number Golden State would have gone to, but general manager Bob Myers told fans “they shouldn’t worry” about Green’s return. The result was Green making $15.3 million in 2016-17 instead of the $17 million he was eligible to earn.
“I think my max was $96 million,” Green told ESPN during these Finals. “That money is not changing my neighborhood. It’s probably $6 million after taxes and fees. It’s not changing my neighborhood, but championships can. Championships can change my life.
“So it’s about what’s important to you. And I knew how important it was to me and the opportunity we could have if I did what I did. And I didn’t need Bob to explain that to me. Bob never once explained that to me. I knew it going in. So that’s where I based my negotiations at. The number I asked for, I got.”
Did Green really take less to make room for Kevin Durant?
According to Green, he was the first to figure out that the Warriors could create just enough cap space for Durant’s max contract the following summer if they revoked their qualifying offers to Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli while also renounced their rights to Leandro Barbosa and Marreese Speights.
His math was apparently good enough to realize the salary cap would spike to $94.1 million in 2016 — well above the NBA’s own $89 million projection at the time Green signed his extension a year earlier.
Green’s math fell $430,643 short of the max space the Warriors signed Durant into, a miscalculation that might have cost him a couple million dollars but sure did result in two more titles. (Golden State also could have renounced Ian Clark and James McAdoo, creating another $873,920 in cap room that Green could have gobbled up if he was as greedy and well-versed in accounting as Ebenezer Scrooge.)
The Warriors started planning for Durant well in advance
We know Warriors players reportedly began recruiting Durant throughout the season after Green signed his extension, and Green texted Durant from the parking lot after the Cleveland Cavaliers upset Golden State in the 2016 Finals, telling his friend, “We need you. Make it happen.” So, maybe there is something to Green sacrificing for the greater good before his teammates knew what that even was.
But Myers and company began planning for the possibility of signing Durant well before Green signed his extension, according to a 2016 Yahoo Sports report, so the Warriors would have done these calculations, too. It would be interesting to know what number they would have gone to for Green had he not, by his own account, approached them with this discounted figure. Of course, there were other options available to Golden State if they had signed Green to his max and still wanted to Durant.
Why is Green only revealing this now?
A skeptic might say Green’s version of events sounds like it’s coming from someone who knows the narrative that his fellow core Warriors have all taken or are willing to take hometown discounts — someone who would like that narrative to feature him not only as one of the guys who has already been underpaid, but the one who actually made the last two years of dynastic success possible.
Stephen Curry famously played on the league’s best bargain deal until cashing in last summer on a super-max contract worth north of $200 million. Durant accepted roughly $10 million less than he could have made last summer so the Warriors could retain Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. And Klay Thompson is reportedly in the process of negotiating a team-friendly extension for this summer. That leaves Green, who is next in line for an extension before his current contract expires in 2020.
Green’s next contract could get expensive
Warriors owner Joe Lacob told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne after winning this year’s Finals, “All good things cost a lot. We’re going to try to sign Klay and Draymond to extensions this summer. They’ve earned the right to do whatever they want; maybe they want to wait until free agency. I can’t control that. But we’ll do whatever we can to keep them.” According to Haynes, Green will not take another discount, rejecting that offer in hopes of earning the requisite honors in 2019 (All-NBA or Defensive Player of the Year again) to be eligible for a super-max deal in two years, when he will be 30 years old.
“I don’t focus on that because as much as I looked out for the team’s success, that still helps me in a sense of winning a championship and building a legacy that lives on forever,” Green told ESPN. “I don’t look at it like it’s their turn to do me right. If I continue to play my game, if I continue to do better, they got to do me right, or somebody else will.
“I did what I did because I wanted to win championships, so that’s paid off so far. Everything else will take care of itself when it’s time.”
It’s been a long-held belief that at some point the luxury tax bill will be too much for the Warriors to accept. Durant is also on record suggesting the Warriors would be “taking advantage” of him if he took another pay cut. Maybe Green’s insistence on earning max money, too, will finally be the straw that breaks Golden State’s back. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on the part of the rest of the NBA.
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