It’s a terrifying thought for the rest of the NBA — a 73-win team is going to get one of the best scorers and players in the NBA.
However, two factors made it possible for the Warriors to form the NBA’s next super-team: the NBA’s rising salary cap and Stephen Curry’s bargain contract.
As a result of a new TV deal, the NBA’s salary cap skyrocketed from $70 million in 2015-16 to a projected $94 million this season. That gave nearly every team in the NBA cap space or financial flexibility if they made a few moves.
The Warriors are one of those teams, and their ability to add Durant comes, in part, because Stephen Curry makes what now looks like a paltry $12 million per season.
In 2012, Curry signed a four-year, $44 million contract extension that some people felt was a gamble for the Warriors. Curry was plagued with constant ankle injuries, and though he was a gifted shooter and scorer, he was far from the MVP-calibre player he is today. The deal, at the time, locked a young, talented player into a safe contract that didn’t pay too much in case his ankles continued to bother him.
Four years later, Curry is one of the best players in the NBA, a two-time MVP locked into a steal of a contract. According to Basketball-Reference, in 2015-16 Curry was just the 65th highest-paid player in the NBA! And after a wild free agency period that’s seen even serviceable role players sign eight-digit contracts, Curry will be, without a doubt, the cheapest superstar in the league.
So, with Curry coming at a relative discount, and Klay Thompson and Draymond Green signing their deals before the salary cap blew up, with a few trades — namely of Andrew Bogut and Shaun Livingston — the Warriors can afford to add Durant to their core.
The Warriors still have to make those moves to clear the cap space, and it will be difficult to add a supporting cast to a gutted team with a high payroll, but several events broke just right for them to add the top free agent in 2016. And when Curry becomes a free agent in 2017, he’ll finally see that big payday that so many of his other peers have already gotten.
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