Warriors GM Mike Dunleavy Jr. Discusses the Team’s Perceived ‘Targeting’ by New NBA Rules
Over the past decade, the Golden State Warriors have unquestionably reigned as the most successful NBA franchise. They’ve clinched four NBA titles since 2015, reshaped the way the game is played with the brilliance of Stephen Curry, and set a blueprint for astute drafting and player development. The Warriors have stood as the benchmark for running an NBA team efficiently, and a significant part of their success can be attributed to team owner Joe Lacob’s willingness to invest generously to keep the Warriors consistently competitive and in the hunt for championships.
The Warriors are accustomed to paying substantial luxury tax bills due to their high-priced roster, culminating in a staggering payroll, including luxury taxes, of around $346 million last season, setting an NBA record. While the Warriors’ ownership has had no reservations about allocating substantial funds, the new luxury tax regulations introduced by the NBA this summer are poised to alter this landscape significantly. The league introduced a secondary tax apron with stringent penalties for teams that exceed it. If a team surpasses this secondary apron, situated approximately $17.5 million above the tax threshold, they forfeit their first-round draft pick seven years in advance. Additionally, they lose the ability to use mid-level exceptions to acquire players after crossing the initial tax threshold.
In essence, these regulations were implemented to restrict teams from spending excessively on their rosters, similar to the Warriors. Although the NBA won’t explicitly state that the new rule targets the Warriors, there are already members within the Warriors’ front office who suspect that these regulations are aimed at curbing their success.
Warriors General Manager Mike Dunleavy Jr., who took the reins in June following Bob Myers, has voiced the sentiment within the organization. Speaking on The Athletic NBA Show, he indicated that, “I think first and foremost for Joe [Lacob] and the whole franchise it’s a compliment… They’re making rules to prevent you from succeeding, and I think that’s the way some of us, certainly Joe, see it. Financial implications that would maybe keep us from going to a certain level.”
Dunleavy further highlighted how the newly announced resting rules appear to target teams like the Warriors, who have a history of strategically resting star players to preserve their physical condition. Starting this season, teams will face fines 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… 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.'”
These new luxury tax rules have already begun influencing roster decisions, notably in the case of the Warriors. During the summer, the Warriors engaged in a trade that sent 24-year-old Jordan Poole to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Chris Paul, who had recently moved from the Phoenix Suns to D.C. Poole’s contract played a significant role in the decision, as he was set to earn $123 million over the next four seasons. In contrast, Paul, though nearing the end of his career, was earning $30.8 million for the current season, with a non-guaranteed $30 million for the following season. This flexibility allows the Warriors to cut ties with Paul without long-term financial repercussions if necessary.
This strategic financial move by the Warriors exemplifies their knack for staying one step ahead, even in the face of new rules aimed at limiting their spending. From a roster perspective, the outcome of this trade remains to be seen. Paul could serve as an ideal backup guard for Curry, enabling him to rest for extended periods without compromising the team’s offensive performance. It’s the first of many risks the Warriors are taking in this new era of the secondary tax apron. If the move proves successful, whether Paul seamlessly integrates with the Warriors or they unlock valuable cap space for the following summer, the Warriors are likely to be commended once again for their adept maneuvering within the system.