The Brooklyn Nets will break the mark set in 2013–14, but they won’t remain in the record books. Instead, it is the Golden State Warriors who are on track to shatter a record. The Warriors have missed the playoffs the last two seasons following Kevin Durant’s departure. They’ve shoved all their chips to the center of the table to return to contention in 2021–22.
Golden State played in five consecutive NBA Finals from 2015–19, winning three titles. Durant defecting to the Nets in the summer of 2019 and massive injuries drove them to the bottom of the NBA. Penalties are no object to Warriors’ management as it tries to get the franchise back on track.
The Golden State Warriors will pay heavily for every win in 2021–22
In 2013, the Nets acquired Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from the Boston Celtics to finish with 44 wins and a second-round playoff exit. The investment only cost the franchise four first-round picks and resulted in six fewer victories.
The kicker was the payroll. Brooklyn paid a record $90.57 million in luxury tax in the wake of that dynasty-building season, per ESPN. By February 2015, Garnett, Pierce, and everything else the Nets acquired in the trade was gone. But at least they got to keep spewing draft picks to New England until 2018. So there was that.
The fallout was Brooklyn spiraling to the depths of the NBA. General manager Sean Marks came on board in 2016. He’s built the team into a contender (for real this time), but it was a long road back.
Entering the 2021–22 season, the Golden State Warriors project to top the luxury tax threshold of $136,606.000 by a tad. OK, maybe more than a tad. They are currently $41.3 million and change over the apron. Because of repeater tax penalties, their bill for the season projects as the largest in NBA history.
They can only hope to do better than former GM Billy King did in Brooklyn for the pleasure of paying the tax.
How much will the Warriors pay next season?
The Golden State Warriors have 16 players on their roster with a projected payroll of around $177.3 million. For tax purposes, that figure goes up to just shy of $178 million.
Not only will the Warriors break the Nets’ record for the highest luxury tax bill, but they will also obliterate it. Projections set the cost at a whopping $184 million, nearly double Brooklyn’s penalty from seven years ago.
There is another team looking at a nine-figure tax bull in 2021–22. The Nets aren’t in repeater territory as frequent taxpayers, so their $171.54 million luxury tax payroll will only cost them $108.4 million (and no, one does not expect to ever use the term “only” with $108.4 million).
The Warriors gave superstar Stephen Curry a $215 million extension this summer, and he’ll receive $45.78 million next season. Klay Thompson checks in at $37.98 million, and Andrew Wiggins is at $31.58 million. Yes, just three players push the Warriors past this year’s cap figure of $112.414 million.
Throw in Draymond Green’s bargain deal of $24.03 million, and Golden State has blown past the tax apron.
The strategy isn’t wrong for the Golden State Warriors
It’s a calculated gamble by Golden State Warriors GM Bob Myers. The window on Curry’s prime is closing. He’ll be 34 by the time the playoffs start next season. Thompson, who hasn’t played in two seasons, will be 32, as will Green. They brought back former Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, a mere kid who turns 38 in January. Nemanja Bjelica is also in the over-30 club.
If Golden State wants a fourth ring for Curry and the gang, it must be sooner rather than later. Curry signed through his age-37 season. But given his fragile ankles, his time as an elite player is closer to the end than the beginning.
If the Golden State Warriors win another title with this group, it will be the most expensive championship ring in NBA history. If they don’t, the second-guessing will go on for years. Just ask Billy King.
Salary information courtesy of Spotrac.