Draymond Green could have been the best NBA free agent in 2020.
Among players on expiring contracts, only Anthony Davis is more accomplished, and Davis is almost assuredly going to re-sign with the L.A. Lakers. The Warriors would have been favored to retain Green, but it has not been considered a sure thing by anyone who watches Golden State, especially not after the weird 2018-19 season that included a team suspension for Green and behavior from the elite defender that clearly exasperated coach Steve Kerr more than usual.
Add in how odd this offseason turned out for the Warriors — Kevin Durant left, D’Angelo Russellarrived, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston were sent packing — and the future for Golden State looked more uncertain than at any time since the beginning of the Splash Brothers era. Green definitely could have left as a part of the churn.
Saturday’s news that the Warriors locked Green in with a four-year, $100 million extension changes that. The future looks like the past. Given what Golden State has accomplished over the past five seasons, that’s a beautiful vision to see laid out.
This is a total coup for the Warriors. Green is the best role player of his generation — that’s a high compliment, not a commentary on his limitations. He’s a top-3 defender in the league (competing with Rudy Gobert and Kawhi Leonard for the title) who has legitimately earned his five straight All-Defense nods.
He’s been a stellar playmaker despite being teamed up with stellar playmakers in Stephen Curryand, for the last three years, Durant. With shooting and scoring his weak point, he’s an absolutely perfect fit with Curry and Thompson, and by extension, probably Russell. There isn’t a role player more perfectly suited for his circumstances in the NBA. His particular and fantastic skillset matched with the fit in Golden State has made him a legitimate star.
Green could have signed for a four-year, $150 million contract next summer, either with the Warriors or elsewhere. Let’s be honest: given the dearth of other high-end, accomplished free agents, he probably would have signed at that figure, if he wanted to play the field. Instead, he gave the Warriors a discount in exchange for security. This is the second discount Green has given Golden State: as a restricted free agent in 2015, he signed a five-year, $82 million deal when he was eligible for a $90 million contract.
Green hasn’t commented, so we aren’t sure if this is about loyalty to the franchise that made him a star, loyalty to teammates he’s won three championships alongside, or just a realization that nothing could be as perfect as continuing his legacy — probably a Hall of Fame legacy — in the Bay Area. Regardless of the motive, it sets up the Warriors beautifully.
All four of Golden State’s stars are now on attractive long-term contracts. None of them (not even Curry) have a no-trade clause. The high combined price of the four players will restrict what else GM Bob Myers can do to the roster, but if things get sideways or if the fit’s not quite right, any of them can be moved. One presumes that it would take a major catastrophe for the Warriors to ever trade Curry. The same probably applies to Thompson. Green and Russell, though, by virtue of their discount and age respectively, help the Warriors keep their options alive.
Green was going to be around for the 2019-20 rebound season regardless, barring a summer trade should the Warriors have feared losing him for nothing next July. He’ll pair with old friend Curry and new running mate Russell to get the Warriors into good playoff position before Thompson returns, hopefully by the end of the regular season. Golden State will remain dangerous, albeit in a Western Conference that has never been so treacherous.
But again, the 2019-20 rebound season was going to look like that regardless. This Green contract means that if all goes according to plan, the Warriors could be title favorites going into 2020-21 and beyond. The dynasty lives on.