The Golden State Warriors have undoubtedly been the most successful NBA team in the last 10 years. They've won four titles since 2015, have changed the way the game is played thanks in large part to Stephen Curry, and have laid out a blueprint of drafting well and developing talent. They've been the gold standard for how to run an NBA franchise, and part of that has to do with the amount of money team owner Joe Lacob is willing to spend in order to keep the Warriors not just competitive, but in the hunt for a championship every season.
The Warriors are no stranger to paying a large luxury tax bill thanks to their expensive roster, and last season they set an NBA record for having a payroll, including luxury taxes, of roughly $346 million. While Warriors ownership clearly has no issue forking over that kind of cash, the NBA's new luxury tax rules put in place this summer will certainly change all of that. The league added a second tax apron that comes with severe penalties if crossed. If a team passes the second apron, which is set at roughly $17.5 million above the tax line, they will be unable to trade their first-round pick seven years out. That is in addition to not being able to use mid-level exceptions to acquire players after passing the first tax apron.
Essentially, these rules were put into place to curb teams from spending a significant amount of money on their rosters, like the Warriors. And while the league won't ever say that Golden State is the reason this new rule exists, there are already members within the Warriors front office who think these rules were geared toward stopping their success.
"I think first and foremost for Joe [Lacob] and the whole franchise it's a compliment," Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. said on The Athletic NBA Show. "They're making rules to prevent you from succeeding, and I think that's the way some of us, certainly Joe sees it as. Financial implications that would maybe keep us from going to a certain level."
Dunleavy,, additionally went on to mention that the NBA announced also seem to target a team like the Warriors, who have a history of strategically sitting out star players to preserve their bodies. Starting this season, teams will be fined if they sit out two or more All-Star level players in the same game for load management reasons.
"The rest stuff as well a little bit, it seems to be targeted at a roster similar to ours," Dunleavy said. "So I think first of all you take it as a compliment. Just like Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] when they took the dunk out [of college basketball], so you gotta first let it soak in. 'OK we did something right.'"
Already we're seeing how the new luxury-tax rules are impacting roster construction, specifically with Golden State. This summer the Warriors pulled of a trade that sent 24-year-old Jordan Poole to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Chris Paul, who had just been sent to D.C. from the Phoenix Suns. Poole's contact was reportedly part of the reason as to why the Warriors made the trade, as the guard is set to make $123 million over the next four seasons. In comparison, while Paul is on the tailend of his career, and is making $30.8 million this season, his $30 million for next season is non-guaranteed. So if things don't work out, Golden State can cut Paul lose and open up cap space for next summer.
It's a savvy financial move from the Warriors who are once again proving to be a step ahead even with new rules in place to limit their spending. But from a roster standpoint, we'll have to see how this move shakes out. Paul could be an ideal backup guard to Curry, allowing him to rest for longer periods of time without fear of Golden State's offense falling apart without him. It's the first risk the Warriors are taking in this new second-tax-apron world, and if it works out, either with Paul fitting in well with the Warriors, or Golden State unlocking useful cap space for next summer, they'll likely again be heralded again for working the system to their favor.