The Case For and Against Draymond Green’s $100M Extension

Mon 5th August 2019

As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Saturday, the Golden State Warriors have signed forward Draymond Green to a four-year, $100M max contract extension.

This means Green’s extension kicks in at the start of the 2020-21 season, making his overall deal worth 5-years and $118 million. He will be 33-years-old by the time he next enters free agency.

Green is a three-time All-Star; a former Defensive Player of the Year (2017); has won three titles with Golden State and has made the NBA All-Defense team on 5 occasions. Despite an at-times-underwhelming regular season in 2018-19, he was able to flick the switch in the playoffs to the tune of 13.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game and helped lead the Durant-less Warriors to their 5th-straight appearance in the NBA Finals.

Golden State had the opportunity to wait until the end of the 2019-20 season – when Green hit unrestricted free agency – before beginning contract talks, but decided they didn’t want to wait.

As with any big-money, long-term extension but particularly in the case of such a polarising figure as Green, the pros and cons of such a deal for the team involved are innumerable. Let’s take a quick look.

The Case For 

As was made immediately obvious by Kevin O’Connor from The Ringer, Green has taken a noticeable pay-cut to remain with the Warriors.

By signing Green now for four-years and $100 million the Warriors have (in theory) saved themselves in the vicinity of $104 million. Of course, that number is the maximum he might have been able to command. Let’s say in the absence of Durant, Green exploded for an 18-point, 9-rebound, 8-assist per game, All-Defense season. Rest assured there would have been a bidding war (imagine the saliva in the maw of Daryl Morey) for a player with those capabilities.

Forbes’ Patrick Murray has even gone as far as suggesting (taking in to account luxury tax, repeater tax etc.) that signing Green now rather than risking the possibility of a max extension has saved the Warriors in the realm of $230,828,290. Yikes.

In reality, whilst it’s undoubtedly a bargain for Golden State given what Green may have been able to get on the open market had he played a decent season in 2019, it’s probably *only* a saving of maybe $10-$15 million at best.

For the Warriors though, it’s still a no-brainer on a number of other levels. Despite the mercenary nature of the modern-day NBA, this Golden State roster is one built on mutual respect between star-player and organisation. That’s evident in the godfather deal currently being paid to Steph Curry, and even more so in Joe Lacob’s unwavering, $190-million faith in the prospect of Klay Thompson returning from his ACL injury. 

Whilst the Warriors and Draymond Green don’t “owe” each other anything, it’s a just reflection of Green’s contribution to the success of the franchise that he not be made to spend the upcoming season feverishly building a case for his max-extension. Getting the deal done in August is both a shrewd business decision and also a shot in the arm to a player whose game is notoriously built on emotion.

    “Hey, we believe in you. You’re a star. Now go out and play like one.”

Green’s performance in last year’s post-season solidified his status as a) a premiere (if not THE premiere) position-less defender in the modern NBA; and b) a bona fide offensive playmaker in the absence of Kevin Durant.

From Green’s perspective there is of course the argument that if you’re that good, why not bet on yourself this season and cash in over the summer? Doesn’t signing now show a lack of confidence in yourself?

The answer is pretty simple; it’s not worth the risk. Off the back of the post-season he just put in, there’s every chance Green’s stocks will never be higher again. Particularly given that, at the age of 29 and with the type of physical, brusing, rim-running game-style he’s always played, the biological clock is ticking fast. 

The Warriors know they’re unlikely to genuinely compete for a championship next season without Durant and Thompson, but they’re also fully aware that the window for their big 3 (plus the addition of D’Angelo Russell) is well and truly open for 2020-21.

Signing Green locks down their core for the foreseeable future.

It gives them flexibility – in that any of these deals at face value appear eminently tradeable – but it also provides security. This is not a team (unlike, say, the Raptors) who are likely to fall off the proverbial cliff any time soon.

The Case Against

For every positive there is, of course, an equal and opposite negative.

First and foremost is the fact that that aforementioned flexibility can be erased at the drop of a hat; through injury, poor form or a combination of both. What the Warriors may be left with is one of the most un-tradeable contracts in the league

Green’s regular-season stats for last season are of major concern. In 31.3 minutes per game (over 66 games) he averaged just 7.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.9 assists. Sure, the playoffs papered over the cracks, but those numbers are poor by his standards, and whether they’re as a result of poor fitness, poor form, poor attitude or a combination of all three is kind of immaterial. 

The Warriors simply cannot afford to carry those numbers next regular season. Thompson’s injury constricts their options considerably; if they’re to make the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference then Curry, Russell and Green have to play at an All-Star level.

It’s also worth highlighting that, while in a vacuum $100M does look like a bargain for a 5-time All-Defense, 29-year-old star, there’s a decent argument to be made that the Warriors overpaid.

According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, only five teams are currently projected to enter next summer with at least $25-million in salary-cap space.

If Green plays another regular season like that of 2018-19’s, in a summer with not much money floating around, Golden State might have been able to get away with paying significantly less than they’ve ended up shelling out.

Instead, they now have $140M guaranteed to 8 players for the 2020-21 season. Over the next 3 years they’re set to pay out $385.6M cash to Steph Curry, D’Angelo Russell, Klay Thompson, & Draymond Green, with the four’s salary for next year alone accounting for $9 million MORE than the projected salary cap.

Out of those four stars, surely Green is the most expendable. Instead he’s now locked in for the next four years, and with one bad year effectively becomes unmoveable.

Good teams like the Warriors, though, have made a living out of making good decisions. There’s a reason this dynasty has become the unstoppable force it has been for the last five years.

Are we on the mark, or way off? Is Draymond’s deal a worthwhile investment or a risk too far?

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