NBA Rumor: Stephen Curry Extension?

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Stephen Curry insists he'd rather stay a Warrior his whole career

Warriors star Stephen Curry will be entering a contract year in 2021/22 if he doesn’t reach an extension agreement in the offseason with the team. However, he doesn’t sound like someone eager to test free agency. Asked by ESPN’s Rachel Nichols (video link) how much of a priority it is to spend his entire career in Golden State, Curry affirmed that’s his plan. “It’s always been a priority,” Curry said. “When you look at guys like Dirk (Nowitzki), Kobe (Bryant), that I played against and have heard them talk about what that’s meant, they don’t speak on it lightly. There’s a reverence for that club.

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ESPN’s Warriors reporter, Nick Friedell, was quick to shoot down the idea on the podcast. Curry did not sign a contract extension before the season, which currently means he could become a free agent in 2022, but delaying the extension also makes him eligible to sign an even bigger deal with the Warriors this summer. “He’s gonna sign,” Friedell said. “There’s no way that Steph — who has only ever said he wants to stay with the Warriors his whole career, and who has only ever said, ‘I can’t wait to play with Klay [Thompson] again, it’s going to be great, and Draymond [Green is] still rolling through either the end of his prime or towards that other stage at a different point in his career’ — that Steph is suddenly going to walk away.

Why didn’t the two-time NBA MVP put pen to paper? “He could sign a four-year deal after this season [or] a five-year deal after that,” president of basketball operations Bob Myers explained Wednesday morning on 95.7 The Game’s “Steiny, Guru & Dibs” show. “It wasn’t anything that was difficult. No hard conversation. It was just, ‘Hey, let’s talk about it at the end of the year.’ So it’s really whatever he’s hoping to do and wants to do.”

If both sides are interested, negotiations would be fascinating from both sides because of the rules in place for extensions this far out. Any veteran extension can bring a player’s contract up to a total length of five seasons — any remaining years on the current contract count toward those five years. Since Curry will still have two seasons left on his deal (it expires July 2022) once this season ends, a new deal this summer could only add three extra years. Waiting until July 2021 would open up a fourth new season and waiting to do the extension all the way until his current deal expires in July 2022 would open up the possibility of adding five more seasons.

The money adds another interesting wrinkle, especially with some uncertainty in the future salary-cap projections. Curry’s salary in the first new season can be the larger of 35 percent of the eventual 2022-23 cap amount (the traditional way max contracts are calculated) or a 5 percent raise on his own 2021-22 salary of $45.8 million, which would be a whopping $48.1 million for the 2022-23 season.We do not know exactly where the cap will go between now and then, but that $48.1 million works well as an estimate. Building 8 percent raises off of that would create an extension that pays Curry $48.1 million in 2022-23, $51.9 million in 2023-24 and $55.8 million in 2024-25 for $155.7 million in new money. Naturally, the two sides could also negotiate an extension for less than that full maximum by reducing years, salary or both.

Yet there are two major reasons for the Warriors not to give him that raise: 1. Any raise Curry gets on his 2016-17 salary would need to come from cap space. The Warriors do have salary cap flexibility — enough, even to add Kevin Durant — doing so would be incredibly costly in luxury tax. That probably is fine when adding a player of Durant’s talent (assuming owner Joe Lacob signs off), but giving Curry a pay bump does not make the team better. It could make the team worse. At a $92 million NBA salary cap (the exact figure is not known yet), his maximum would be about $25.9 million, so the Warriors would need about $14 million in cap space to make it happen.

2. Curry’s new contract would not run nearly as long as if he waits one year for free agency. A renegotiated extension can only be for a maximum of four seasons, and the renegotiated season counts, so a Curry contract this summer would go through the 2019-20 season while a five-year contract as a free agent next summer could give him security until 2021-22. Waiting also likely gives Curry a higher salary per season since the cap will rise again next year — especially if, as expected, the value of maximum contracts is increased in the 2017 labor renegotiations.
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