Golden State Warriors

Warriors lose Gary Payton II, others, but roster could still cost $400 million

The Warriors lost a few veteran role players early in free agency, but that doesn’t mean team ownership isn’t shelling out the cash to try and win it all again in 2023.

Team owner Joe Lacob still has his limits, apparently — though they remain sky-high. Reports ahead of free agency suggested that if the Warriors kept all of its key free agents, most notably Gary Payton II, who just signed with the Blazers, Golden State’s payroll could balloon to $500 million.

But now that Payton, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Otto Porter Jr., and Nemanja Bjelica have all left via free agency, the Warriors could still pay roughly $400 million in payroll plus luxury tax — and that’s only for the top nine players on the roster, assuming center James Wiseman’s team option is picked up by October.

Assuming the Warriors keep Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, pick up the team options on Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, sign Wiggins to a max contract, and re-sign Poole for his expected value after re-signing Looney on Friday, they’ll face a 2023-24 payroll of almost $208 million for only nine players. Factor in the luxury-tax ramifications, and the Warriors would pay around $400 million, with eight roster spots — including the two two-way contracts — yet to fill.

Connor Letourneau/San Francisco Chronicle

Wiseman is a key figure in this scenario since the Warriors aren’t sure what they have from him yet, due to his extended injury recovery time. According to Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle, Golden State has to decide on his $12.1 million team option by October 31.

But overall, this is why I can’t stand to hear that the Warriors are being cheap during free agency, both last offseason and this one. This team will always cost an excessive amount of payroll as long as homegrown stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green lead the way.

With some championship-winning veterans leaving, it’s time for young players Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody to step up. That was always the plan. Adding veterans when possible also remains part of the plan, as evidenced by the recent signing of guard Donte DiVincenzo.

The Warriors already have one championship to show for its strategy and are definitely gunning for more, even if it may seem to some that they are being cheap on the open market. But clearly, Lacob’s checkbook is still working hard in Golden State — with roster pieces still left to fill before the 2022-23 campaign.

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