Warriors Will Not Release $22.5 Million Leader Ahead of Free Agency: Report

The Golden State Warriors could undergo a massive roster overhaul this summer, though current plans don’t include releasing or trading a long-time locker room leader.

Center Kevon Looney was a pivotal force in the Dubs’ run to the 2022 NBA Finals and subsequent championship, providing what was a relatively diminutive team with crucial interior size and rebounding against opponents like the Boston Celtics. Several analysts have speculated that the Dubs might release Looney in the coming days as a salary cap-clearing move, or that they might include him in a trade, as he is on an expiring contract and entering the final season of a three-year $22.5 million deal.

However, Anthony Slater of The Athletic reported on Saturday, June 22, that Looney will not be departing the Bay Area — at least not yet.

It appears that [Looney’s] tenure will continue into next week. Only $3 million of Looney’s $8 million is currently guaranteed for next season. The other $5 million guarantees on Monday, presenting the possibility he could be released.

But that isn’t the Warriors’ current plan, according to league sources. They are expected to let the rest of Looney’s $8 million contract guarantee, keeping him in their current plans, though it does remain possible they eventually use his salary to help complete an offseason trade.

Looney still has value as a leader in the locker room and remains one of Steve Kerr’s favorite players, a voice he relies on during tense times but also a center he trusts on the floor. Looney was edged out of the rotation midseason by rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis — and would presumably enter next season behind Jackson-Davis on the depth chart — but Looney moved his way back into the rotation in April and appeared in their Play-In Tournament loss in Sacramento.

Warriors May Choose Not to Release Chris Paul or Kevon Looney in Coming Days

GettyChris Paul of the Golden State Warriors. 

Along with Looney, Chris Paul has been one of the rotation players analysts have deemed most likely to be included in a deal this summer.

The Warriors are in an interesting position with Paul, as they could simply cut him and clear $30 million off of their salary cap before that money becomes guaranteed next week. However, doing so only affords Golden State cap relief by helping the organization get out of the league’s punitive luxury tax. The Dubs’ subsequent recourse to add talent would then be simply to sign a free agent, which would just add more money back to the books.

Keeping Paul’s salary, however, opens up the potential of bringing back several different players beyond the limited roster of free agent prospects. The Warriors could package Paul’s contract, and potentially Looney’s as well, along with young players and draft assets to get in the game for All-Star caliber talent like Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat or Lauri Markkanen of the Utah Jazz.

Warriors May Be Able to Use Chris Paul, Kevon Looney’s Salaries to Create Trade for Star Player

GettyJimmy Butler of the Miami Heat.

NBA trades require that the player salaries included on both sides come close to matching. Paul, 39, is still a serviceable point guard and is on an expiring deal, which means any team that trades for him bears no financial responsibility beyond next season.

As such, a team like the Heat could clear Paul’s salary off the books in 2025 and use that money to pursue free agent talent, while also getting young players and/or assets back in return from Golden State for a player like Butler. That is assuming Miami doesn’t want to extend the injury-prone 34-year-old long-term, but does want to get something in return for him before parting ways.

Given his age, mileage and injury history, a player like Butler represents a significant risk to an already aging Warriors squad built around Stephen Curry (36) and Draymond Green (34). Adding him, however, may be the only reasonable chance Golden State has of busting back into title contention in a stacked Western Conference.

The team has multiple first-round picks to trade and wouldn’t have to give up all of its young talent to make a move for a player like Butler. Also, if the Dubs don’t end up re-signing Klay Thompson this summer, there will be considerably more room on the cap sheet for a star-level player over the next two or three seasons.

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This article was originally published on Heavy.com

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