What Warriors should do with Klay Thompson, Chris Paul, Jonathan Kuminga?

Where do the Warriors go from here?

Their champion core is now aged and embarrassed. Their young players are not good enough to protract the dynasty. The Warriors are stuck in between stations.

Add the NBA’s new, increasingly punitive (some could argue vindictive) luxury tax rules and a standard of excellence that won’t be compromised (not so long as Joe Lacob runs the team and Steph Curry is on it), and Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. might have the most challenging job in basketball.

There are a million directions he can go. But balancing all the Warriors’ needs, there’s one route — with three key steps — that seems most likely this offseason:

1: The Warriors re-sign Klay Thompson

This might not seem like a priority this summer, and truth be told, it’s not the most important thing the Warriors need to do — but it is an issue that needs to be resolved first.

Clarity with Thompson — one way or another — will define this offseason.

And in a weird, twisted way, Klay Thompson’s absolutely brutal 0-for-10, getting-burned-on-the-perimeter-by-Trey-Lyles game could prove to benefit the Warriors. How much money did Thompson lose himself with that performance? It’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world.

The Warriors need to set a fair price and have a strict term limit. It makes sense to have Thompson’s new deal align with Steph Curry and Steve Kerr’s contracts (two years remaining), or with Draymond Green’s (two years, plus a player option).

“I have no reason to think that our ownership group aren’t going to take care of us,” Green said Tuesday. “There’s a lot of organizations that will only do what’s best for the organization. This isn’t one of them.”

But it takes two to tango.

Surely Greg Lawrence, Thompson’s agent, will be keen for the wing to land a deal similar to what Jrue Holiday just signed with the Celtics — four years, $135 million.

But Holiday didn’t have two catastrophic leg injuries. Holiday is still one of the finest point guards in the league, a two-way menace for a top team. Thompson had a nice second half of the season, but, well, Tuesday.

Thompson has already reportedly turned down a two-year, $48 million deal from the Warriors.

I think Thompson will test the free-agent market, but returns to that offer, eventually signing a three-year deal (third year as a player option) worth $75 million — effectively the same contract as Green.

2: Salary shedding

There are two obvious places to do this. The first is with Chris Paul. Even in Steve Kerr’s effusive praise following Paul’s useless play-in tournament performance, the Warriors coach admitted that Paul doesn’t fit with the Dubs. The team is already small; Paul makes them smaller, and Kerr can’t reasonably play Paul and Curry together because that’s two undersized, negative defenders on the perimeter.

The reason the Warriors traded for Paul last summer was two-fold: they wanted to rid themselves of Jordan Poole, and they wanted to have a player who still had use but had a contract that was easily eliminated from the books.

Paul, whose salary for 2024-25 is not guaranteed, is easily eliminated.

“I’m open to things,” Paul said Wednesday.

But there’s not much negotiation to be had.

The Warriors will try to trade Paul and that nice $30 million chunk of cap space, and perhaps they can, but if nothing materializes, the Dubs can — and will — waive Paul and effectively counter Thompson’s new contract, if not come out a bit ahead on the balance sheet.

I imagine that’s what happens. Perhaps Paul can come back on a much cheaper deal. (I’m not sure there’s a market for him anywhere near what he’s currently making.)

The Warriors would likely be content with that one move. They’d still be in the luxury tax, but they’d stand a solid chance of being under the two luxury tax aprons, where the real ramifications (beyond a loss of cash) lie. Golden State has to be under those aprons for two of the next four years to avoid the most significant penalties (including the automatic depreciation of first-round draft picks.)

I’m no business major, but coming off a season where the Warriors were the most expensive team in NBA history but were only the No. 10 seed in the West, slashing salary seems like a good option.

I think the Warriors waive Paul.

But if the Warriors want to stop paying the tax altogether (an understandable concept) or add another player on a serious veteran contract, Golden State will have to move Andrew Wiggins, too. (He has three years and $85 million remaining on his deal.) To do that, they’ll likely have to attach a first-round draft pick to him in a trade.

What’s the upside of going under the luxury tax line? The Warriors could use the non-taxpayer mid-level exception — a roughly $13 million contract that won’t count against the tax bill.

If the Warriors remain over the $172 million tax line (but under the second apron), they will still qualify for the taxpayer mid-level exception (roughly $5 million).

Are the Warriors willing to commit to Moses Moody for 30 minutes a game? Are they willing to pay for someone else to pay Wiggins?

I doubt it, but can’t eliminate the possibility — especially if the Warriors go bold this offseason.

3. The Dubs make a big decision on Jonathan Kuminga

Jonathan Kuminga will be extension-eligible this offseason. So while he’s affordable today — perhaps even a bargain — those times won’t last.

Minnesota’s Jaden McDaniels signed a five-year, $136 million extension in October.

McDaniels is an outstanding defender, but he’s a 10-point-per-game player, and he’ll be paid $30 million a season starting next season.

Thirty million for Jaden McDaniels. The NBA is an absurd league.

Now, Kuminga is going to get at least that. At age 21, he was nearly a 20-point-per-game scorer down the stretch.

It’ll be a year delayed, but that’s a big chunk of salary heading to the Dubs’ books.

The Warriors must ask if they can do better with that salary space over the next few seasons.

The Warriors have two paths to relevancy in the West next season. The first is to trade Kuminga — this team’s most valuable trade asset — for a bonafide No. 2 option. (They can also offload Wiggins in such a deal.)

The second is to hope and pray Kuminga becomes that No. 2 next season.

He had a 90-second burst of such play in Tuesday’s game, which only showed he’s not likely to take that leap in his age-22 campaign.

He might get there eventually. He might never — this Year 3 leap might be his most significant.

But with the extension deadline looming, the Warriors have to place their bet this summer.

The NBA trade market is constantly changing, but as things stand today, there’s only one deal the Warriors can and should make:

If the Nets are open to trading Mikal Bridges — they have stonewalled prior advances for the star wing — the Warriors can package Wiggins’ contract with Kuminga and draft picks (they’d have to move a first-round pick to rid themselves of Wiggins under any circumstance) to acquire him. That would be a massive win.

I don’t expect that to happen, though.

And considering the list of players expected to be available, it’s hard to imagine the Warriors trading the young wing for any of them—even with their reservations about Kuminga.

Trading Kuminga to land Dejounte Murray doesn’t make sense, even though Murray would be an excellent fit with the Dubs and provide much-needed on-ball defense for opposing point guards.

I expect the Warriors will pay Kuminga in October. They’ll hold onto Wiggins and keep him on the trade block next season, looking to move the wing before Kuminga’s contract extension activates in 2025-26.

In all, the Dubs, who are $4.6 and $15.5 million under the tax thresholds going into this offseason, per Salary Swish, will find a way to stay under the line.

But will this team be any better?


Bigs: Trayce Jackson-Davis, Kevon Looney, Draymond Green

Wings: Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, Gui Santos, Lester Quinones

Guards: Steph Curry, Gary Payton II, Brandin Podziemski

To add: Second-round draft pick, taxpayer mid-level exception player ($5.2 million)

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