By: Aaron Karesh  | 

Kevin Durant: The 2018 NBA Executive of the Year

As the reigning NBA Champions and LeBron-defeaters, the Golden State Warriors should have entered this past offseason free of concern, but due to the fact that seven of their nine key players, ranging from star Stephen Curry to role player Javale McGee, were free agents, this was not the case. With the salary cap — the amount a team is permitted to spend in a given year on the entire 12-man roster — for the upcoming 2017-2018 NBA season set at $99.093 million, the Warriors’ prospects for keeping all of their key players were grim at best. It was obvious they weren’t going to let Stephen Curry go, but other than him, it seemed that everyone else could have left and pursued larger contracts from other teams. How did the Warriors prevent this from happening? The answer lays not in the Warriors front office’s brilliance, but in the generosity and sacrifice made by NBA Finals MVP, Kevin Durant.

Kevin Durant, arguably the best player in the NBA, and undoubtedly the best pure scorer in the league, became a free agent this past summer after opting out of his player-option in his contract, immediately causing analysts to worry about the future of the Warriors. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are clear-cut max-contract players, and Klay Thompson and Draymond Green aren’t too far behind. However, instead of testing the waters of free agency, Durant renegotiated a contract that would allow other key members of the team to stay in the Bay Area, taking about $14 million less than the maximum amount he could have received. This allowed the Warriors to give Stephen Curry the richest contract in NBA history, $201 million (he deserves every penny of it);  stop Andre Igoudala, one of the Warriors most crucial role players, from signing with the San Antonio Spurs; keep four other role players; and sign two additional veterans to help bolster their already-strong bench.

“Durant renegotiated a contract that would allow other key members of the team to stay in the Bay Area, taking about $14 million less than the maximum amount he could have received”

Nevertheless, despite Durant’s $14 million haircut, the Warriors are still going to be exceeding the $99.093 million salary cap, which comes at a large expense. According to sports analytics website, in addition to the $139.6 million the Warriors are going to be paying their players this upcoming year, they will have to pay the NBA $46.3 million in luxury taxes. The NBA luxury tax is a fine levied on teams who have a total team payroll which exceeds a separate threshold that is higher than the salary cap; for the 2017-2018 season, that threshold is approximately $119 million. For every dollar a team spends over this threshold, they are fined anywhere between $1.50 and $3.75. If a team is a repeat offender — a team that exceeds the luxury tax threshold at least two years in a row — that range increases to between $2.50 and $4.75 for every dollar spent. By taking $14 million less than his market value, Kevin Durant saved the Warriors tens of millions of dollars in luxury tax fee.

However, not all sports analysts were so pleased with the “sacrifice” that Durant made for the Warriors. One such sports personality is Fox Sports 1 analyst and former NFL tight end Shannon Sharpe. On his sports debate show Undisputed, Sharpe emphasized that while it was extremely selfless and “nice” of Kevin Durant to take a $14 million pay cut — something most people can only dream of being able to do — it should not have been his responsibility to do so. Instead, he argued that the Warriors ownership, multi-billionaires who could certainly spare the cash, should have ponied up and paid both Durant and the luxury tax bill that would have come with the increased payroll. Sharpe explained that as wealthy as Durant is, the owners are significantly wealthier, and they should not have penalized him — even if taking less money was out of his own volition — to take less than his market value in order for them to save some money. He went on to argue that Durant was setting a bad precedent in which NBA owners would start pressuring their star players to take less money by convincing them that this would aid in their desire to win an NBA Championship, when in reality the owners would be simply saving themselves a lot of money.

Whether Durant should have taken the pay cut is a matter for debate; however, it is an undisputed fact that due to his sacrifice, the Warriors are now in a prime position to repeat as NBA Champions in 2018.