The Golden State Warriors won’t risk breaking up one of the NBA’s best benches for the sake of more salary cap space as they pursue top free agents like Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki.
According to ESPN, the Warriors plan to keep reserve point guard and integral role player Shaun Livingston as well as his $5.7 million salary for next season, a move that limits how much space general manager Bob Myers has to work with as he courts Durant and other top free agents.
Golden State does have the option to waive Livingston by Thursday and save $2.7 million on next year’s ballooned salary cap. Only $3 million of Livingston’s salary is guaranteed in the final year of his contract.
Considering the cap will rise to $94 million for the 2016-17 season, compared to $72 million last season, it would seem like a minuscule amount. However, the Warriors do need to create the requisite space if they hope to promise Durant, Nowitzki and others top dollars as well as make good on their championship aspirations.
Set to enter his 10th year in the league, Durant can command a maximum-level contract beginning at roughly $27 million in the first year of the deal.
The defending Western Conference champion Warriors currently have $17.6 million in cap space and only eight players signed for next season, according to Spotrac.com.
Signed as a free agent in 2014 away from Brooklyn for $16.6 million over three years while using the league’s midlevel exemption, Livingston has averaged 6.1 points and 3.2 assists, and shot 51.7 percent from the field over 19.2 minutes per game as a primary backup to Warrior stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Along with swingman Andre Iguodala, Livingston became the backbone of arguably the league’s best bench and the Warriors’ high-octane offense didn’t miss a beat when he took the floor over the squad’s two sharpshooters. Golden State’s bench averaged 33.8 points per game last season, which was ranked just 19th in the league, but it also tied San Antonio as the best shooting second unit at 47.5 percent and was fifth in assists (9.1).
To raise the stakes even higher as Golden State tries to preserve a squad that’s reached the NBA Finals the last two seasons, the Philadelphia 76ers intend to heavily pursue starting small forward and restricted free agent Harrison Barnes, ESPN reported.
Barnes can benefit tremendously from the increased cap and will field max-level offers. The Warriors do have the right and three days to match any offer sheet Barnes signs. However, matching it would hurt the cap space for Durant.
Barnes, 24, was selected No. 7 overall in 2012 by the Warriors. He is reportedly a “priority” for the Warriors, and if they miss out on Durant they also intend to chase free agents Pau Gasol, David West, Timofey Mozgov and Joakim Noah to shore up the frontcourt.