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Klay Thompson is just the first of many dominoes to fall for the Warriors

Vincent Frank
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

As we’ve have indicated several times recently, it looks like All-Star guard Klay Thompson will return to the Golden State Warriors.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Golden State is expected to offer its injured star a full five-year, $190 million guaranteed contract once free agency opens up Sunday evening. Thompson will sign in short order.

This really isn’t much of a surprise. Short of the Warriors refusing to offer Thompson a max deal, there was no real reason to believe he’d leave Northern California.

For a Warriors team coming off a brutal NBA Finals loss, this will be the first of many dominoes to fall during what promises to be an active summer.

Klay Thompson: The injury timeline.

  • Even before this report broke, suggestions were that Golden State expects Thompson to return from his torn ACL in either February or March.
  • This is no small thing. The Warriors will need to get a stop-gap two-guard next to Stephen Curry.
  • But by retaining Thompson, there’s no need to look for a long-term option there.
  • In terms of free agency, the likes of Jeremy Lamb, Justin Holiday, Seth Curry and even Rodney Hood might be available for the mid-level exception.

The Kevin Durant dynamic: Golden State has options here.

  • The Warriors’ first goal is to lock Durant into a five-year, $220 million deal.
  • Even after both players suffered injuries in the Finals, Golden State was seemingly willing to offer max deals to KD and Thompson.
  • With Thompson back in the fold, the Warriors are not in complete desperation mode.

There’s layers to that view.

  • Golden State has to feel comfortable that it can compete with the core of Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green moving forward.
  • Retaining Durant, who will miss all of next season, would only act as a boon for the five-time defending conference champions.

Other Durant options: Sign-and-trade, let him walk.

  • Recent reports suggest that the Warriors’ brass have been talking to Durant and his reps.
  • Said talks have included the possibility of a sign-and-trade should KD decide to leave.
  • In turn, this would net the Warriors a $35-plus million trade exception.
  • The Warriors can also just decide to do away with a sign-and-trade if Durant is hellbent on leaving.

Sign-and-trade: The devil is always in the details.

  • Golden State simply can’t go out there and add a max-contract free agent like Kawhi Leonard.
  • Instead, the Warriors could hit the free-agent market by offering up draft capital to a team in a sign-and-trade.
  • Basic example would be handing over two first-round picks to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jimmy Butler. This would create a trade exception for Philly. It’s also extremely hypothetical.

Other moves: Now that Thompson is settled, things are taking shape.

What does that all mean? It’s not as simple as it seems.

Re-signing Durant and Looney would pretty much force the Warriors into vet-minimum players and the taxpayer mid-level exception. That’s going to impact the team’s bottom line with Durant out all of next season and Thompson expected to miss a majority of the campaign.

Though, Thompson’s injury opens up another avenue for a short-term fix. That comes in the form of the injured-player exception.

Given Thompson is expected to sign the max deal, Golden State would be able to add about $10 million in salary to its bloated payroll for next season in a trade.

The idea here would be to target teams looking to unload unfavorable contracts. Dion Waiters of the Miami Heat is the first player to come to mind.

A lot still needs to be done in San Francisco heading into free agency. But inking Thompson to said extension at the outset is only going to help.