The storyline surrounding the Warriors this season has had relatively little to do with what they’re doing during the season and more to do with what will come afterwards. Kevin Durant is a free agent and has been connected with the Knicks virtually all season. The Clippers have high hopes their first-round performance against Golden State may help them land Durant. His departure is all but assured from an outside perspective. While Durant could stay, it seems like the time for a natural separation as the Warriors’ cap situation becomes harder to navigate.
Their other major free agent is the less flashy half of the Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson. Many have assumed that Thompson would stay with Golden State, but that’s now being called into question. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports the Warriors are preparing for a ‘seismic change’ this upcoming offseason. This is presumably in reference to Durant’s imminent departure, but Wojnarowski also reported that if the Warriors don’t offer Thompson a max contract, he’ll consider heading elsewhere, with the Clippers being named as the team to watch out for.
It would indeed be seismic if the Warriors lost both this offseason, but it’s hard to see that happening. They should prepare for the worst, but they have a realistic chance of keeping Thompson, and would be remiss if they didn’t do everything in their power to keep him in the Bay. I don’t believe they had any illusions about Durant being a long-term arrangement; he will eventually demand a long-term super max contract, something they can’t offer if they don’t want to pay hundreds of millions in luxury tax over the next few years. Thompson, on the other hand, is home-grown, beloved by fans and teammates alike, and barring a big surprise, would be ineligible for a super max contract, the difference of about $30 million.
Durant is the better player, but Thompson is more important to the team. He complements Steph Curry’s skillset perfectly, and even if Durant and (eventually) Draymond Green leave, they’ll always have a chance with the Splash Brothers in the back court. It’s not as simple as keeping one of either Thompson or Durant, but the circumstances currently indicate one plans to leave and one would like to stay, but will leave if necessary. They should dedicate their efforts to keeping Thompson, and thank Durant for his time as a Warrior.