The Warriors have all sorts of short-term decisions to make, from their first top-5 draft pick since Mike Dunleavy in 2002 to how to balance competing for a title with what could be an historic luxury tax bill. However, there’s one decision they could make this offseason won’t impact their books for another two years – an extension for Stephen Curry.
It may feel like just a short while ago (it certainly does to me), but we’re quickly approaching the third anniversary of Curry signing his supermax contract. He finished up what should go down as the most team-friendly contract in NBA history in 2017 and immediately re-signed with the Warriors that summer. Three years later, the Warriors are in a different place than they were, but Curry is still a huge part of what the team is doing on and off the court.
The league may push back Curry’s anniversary for extension purposes due to the ongoing hiatus, but once the offseason opens, he should be eligible to sign an extension any time before the 2020-21 season begins, whether that’s December 1 or a later date. He can sign for anything from the minimum to a three-year deal worth $155 million, so there are essentially no salary restrictions on an extension. Agreeing to an extension this offseason would limit the deal to three additional seasons to bring him to five years total, the maximum length of most contracts – only designated rookie scale extensions and designated veteran player extensions can total six years, including years left on the original contract.
The reality of an extension that would make sense for both sides is an interesting discussion. Curry turned 32 about three months ago and would be 34 by the time any extension begins in 2022-23. The extension would not run afoul of the Over-38 Rule, as he’d be 37 by the time the extension expired in 2025, but it’s still worth wondering whether Curry will be worth a $50 million salary as he gets into his mid-30s. Perhaps the middle ground is a two-year extension, which would align Curry’s free agency with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, assuming the latter picks up a $27.6 million player option in for the 2023-24 season. That way, the Warriors would have four more years of their core trio, then have a clean split at the end as they move into the next era, possibly with this year’s No. 1 pick leading the way.
There’s no particular urgency to get a deal done with Curry – he’s still under contract for the 2021-22 season and the two sides could always revisit extension talks anytime during that league year. Perhaps they want to see how the team performs in 2020-21 before committing even more heavily to their current core.
Purely in terms of what he brings to the table on the floor, there’s little chance he’ll be worth that sort of max money, but there may be other reasons the team and Curry come to an agreement on a massive extension ahead of the start of the 2020-21 season. To say Curry is the face of the Warriors is an understatement – he’s the face of the entire Bay Area and is arguably the single biggest reason the team was able to move from Oracle Arena in Oakland to Chase Center in San Francisco. In 2009, when Curry was drafted, the franchise was estimated to be worth $315 million by Forbes, ranked No. 18 of the 30 NBA teams. Forbes’ 2020 list ranked the Warriors at No. 3 and worth $4.3 billion. Of course, a lot has changed in the last 11 years across the league for the Warriors’ franchise value to increase nearly 14-fold, but the driving force for their rise up the league rankings from No. 18 to No. 3 is Curry.
For the most part, there’s little room in the cutthroat NBA world for sentiment, particularly when sentiment means committing to another $155 million to a mid-30s point guard amid a pandemic in which everybody is losing money left and right. If it were ever going to play a part in negotiations, you would think that this would be the moment, given what Curry means to the franchise on and off the floor and his place atop the Bay Area’s hierarchy.