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How the Warriors can afford to sign Kevin Durant

Bobby Marks
·The Vertical
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It might sound far-fetched, but it’s possible for the NBA’s best team to sign one of the league’s top free agents this offseason.

The Golden State Warriors are a serious threat to land Kevin Durant as a free agent this summer, even with the price tag of an annual $25 million max contract.

A casual fan may think there is no way talent-rich Golden State could land K.D., but here is The Vertical’s step-by-step guide to how the Warriors could make that happen.

Step 1: Retain the Big Three
Golden State can keep All-Stars Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. All 3 players have a combined guarantee salary of $44 million.

Step 2: Guarantee Shaun Livingston’s contract
The versatile Livingston’s $5.7 million contract becomes guaranteed on June 30. Only $3 million is currently guaranteed.

Step 3: Keep the youth

Kevin Durant joining the Warriors would be a scary scenario for other teams. (Getty Images)
Kevin Durant joining the Warriors would be a scary scenario for other teams. (Getty Images)

Kevon Looney, 19, has a huge upside and great value because he is on a rookie contract for $1.2 million next season. Golden State also has its own first-round pick, projected at No. 30. Once the Warriors make this selection in June, there will be a cap hold of $973,000. The Warriors could also follow the San Antonio Spurs’ approach and take an international player and leave him in Europe. The cap hold would then be released if Golden State goes this route. Keep in mind that Golden State cannot trade its 2016 first-round pick.

Step 4: Hold on to Festus Ezeli
If Warriors management feels that Ezeli can stay healthy in the long run, then he is a keeper. The 26-year-old is having a career year but missed the 2013-14 season and parts of last season with various injuries, and he is currently sidelined with a knee injury. Ezeli has a $5 million salary cap hold but could see his salary double on the open market.

Step 5: Trade Andre Iguodala
Obtaining the 32-year-old Iguodala in the final season of an $11.1 million contract would be a bargain for a team looking for a wing this summer. The small forward market will be thin in July with 10 teams in need having cap room.

Step 6: Exercise stretch provision on Andrew Bogut
The best-case scenario would be to find a trade partner for Andrew Bogut. The 31-year-old will be going into his final year of his contract with a cap hit of $11 million. If Golden State cannot trade him, the Warriors would be allowed to stretch his contract over three seasons. Stretching Bogut’s deal means there would be $3.6 million counting against the salary cap.

Note: There is a scenario that includes the steps mentioned in which Golden State can elect to retain Andrew Bogut but renounce Festus Ezeli. The Warriors would have close to $23 million in cap space if they did so.

Step 7: Exercise stretch provision on Jason Thompson

Andre Iguodala would have value this summer in the last year of his contract. (NBAE via Getty Images)
Andre Iguodala would have value this summer in the last year of his contract. (NBAE via Getty Images)

Jason Thompson has $2.6 million in guaranteed salary and needs to be waived by June 26 before his entire $6.8 million contract is guaranteed. Waiving Thompson and stretching his $2.6 million salary over three seasons would see the Warriors incur a cap hit of $883,000.

Step 8: Withdraw the qualifying offer and renounce Harrison Barnes
Out of all the steps, this is the one that is the toughest to swallow. Since being drafted in the first round in 2012, Harrison Barnes has gotten better each year. Finding a team in a sign-and-trade scenario would not benefit Barnes financially or with the length of his contract. Renouncing him would free the Warriors of his $9.6 million cap hold. This is the biggest sacrifice Golden State would have to make.

Step 9: Renounce free-agent cap holds
Electing to renounce the cap holds on Mareesse Speights, Leandro Barbosa, Brandon Rush, James McAdoo, Ian Clark, Jermaine O’Neal and Ognen Kuzmic would free up $17 million in cap space. The players renounced could only sign for the minimum or midlevel room if Golden State elected to bring them back.

Although the process seems complicated, ask yourself: Would you trade Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut for the chance to land Kevin Durant?

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