Warriors still apart in free agency talks with Gary Payton II, Kevon Looney: Sources


As the first day of free agency draws to a close, the distance remains between Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II’s contract desires and the Warriors’ willingness to hit that number, sources said. The Athletic. In particular, the odds of Payton leaving the Warriors are rising rapidly, with the internal belief that he is likely to be lost.

Faced with a record tax bill that multiplies every additional dollar spent by nearly seven, the Warriors entered free agency intent on avoiding any overpayments not required by the market. They want to bring Looney and Payton back. Both players prefer a meeting with the defending champions, if the price is right. That is where the current separation exists.

Only a handful of the league’s 30 teams entered free agency with salary-cap space. Most of them were non-contenders with roster-building plans that didn’t include a high-priced chase from Looney or Payton, who are better suited to specific roles in an already-built winner. A handful of other teams had the full $10.5 million mid-tier available. That group was considered the biggest threat to raising the price of Payton or Looney.


But you can already remove several of those possible landing places from the list. The Kings, under new coach Mike Brown, who ran the Warriors’ defense last season and knows how vital Payton and Looney were to that deal, spent their money on Malik Monk. The Sixers signed PJ Tucker. The Wizards paid Delon Wright. The Timberwolves landed on Kyle Anderson. All of those contracts were in the full mid-tier money range.

This is in line with the market forces the Warriors seemed to anticipate, believing there would most likely be no offers for Looney or Payton beyond the median taxpayer level of $6.4 million, meaning there would be no demand to stretch their by year. contract offers much more than that or, in Payton’s case, to him.

It’s a risky proposition. The landing sites are drying up, but they have not completely disappeared. The Bulls are on the hunt for Danilo Gallinari’s Boston. They would need to use a large part of the mid level to catch it. If they don’t, that available money can be diverted to other goals. There have been rumors that Looney is on Chicago’s list of next-step targets, though a late-night deal with Andre Drummond likely changes the equation. Free agency moves fast. A Looney return to the Warriors still seems likely, though he’s not done exploring alternatives.

Payton is believed to have offers on the table for the $6.4 million mid-tier contributor, though one of his known suitors, the Mavericks, spent his mid-tier contributor to sign JaVale McGee to a three-year deal, eliminating one of Payton’s most important of the Warriors. competitors. Others remain. Portland is considered the most serious current suitor, as first reported by Bleacher Report, extending an offer north of $8 million. Several hours after free agency, the likelihood of Payton landing one of those competing offers is increasing.

Looney was one of the most durable players in basketball a season ago, appearing in all 104 games. He’s the established starting center for a championship contender and those kinds of established big men, especially coming off a title run, usually get contracts that stretch into the low eight figures. Ivica Zubac just received a three-year, $33 million contract from the Clippers.

Payton doesn’t have as long or a stable history with the Warriors as Looney, but he was a defensive revelation for them last season. As a cutting edge and occasional tall screen roller, despite being 6-foot-3, the Warriors unlocked him on offense in a Steph Curry environment, allowing his disruptive defensive skill set to wreak havoc in the league. . He led the NBA in steals for 36 minutes. Perimeter defense is vital to a winning team. Payton is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league.

This could work out well financially for the Warriors, who are also in the running for Otto Porter Jr., currently contemplating a return to the Warriors with minimal veterans or more money elsewhere. If they can keep Looney and Payton on reasonable deals, they’ll be able to somehow contain a tax bill that threatens to shake the total cost of their roster beyond $400 million next season, a number Bob Myers once said Joe Lacob would hesitate to give the green light. .

“I have said that?” Myers joked before he started free agency before getting serious. “We’ll look and see what we can do and I’ll ask Joe what he would authorize, but there’s a limit. It is not unlimited. I wish it was unlimited, but trust me, it’s not. You have to have some restrictions on salary.”

Looney finished sixth in playoff minutes for the Warriors. Porter finished seventh. Payton finished eighth and would have been higher if he hadn’t missed a month after breaking his elbow, only to come back and change the Finals tenor. These three were key components of a champion team. That’s hard to find anywhere else in a dry market. Due to increased finances, the Warriors remain in danger of losing them, particularly Payton, as the free agency clock ticks down.

(Photo: Ron Chenoy/USA Today)