How Warriors can navigate hard cap, sign two buyout players in March

How Warriors can navigate hard cap, sign two buyout players in March

The NBA's CBA (collective bargaining agreement) is extremely complicated. Unless you are a member of a front office -- and/or read it many times over -- you simply can't comprehend all of the details and minutiae. 

You've probably heard by now that the Warriors face the dreaded "hard cap" this season, which means they cannot -- under any circumstance -- have their payroll go above $138,928,000.

As a result, they cannot fill their 15th roster spot until March 3. 

On Thursday morning, John Hollinger of The Athletic -- who had worked in the Memphis Grizzlies front office for the last seven years -- explained in great detail how the Dubs can put themselves in position to sign not one, but two players in early March.

Hollinger assumed the Warriors would part ways with Alfonzo McKinnie to make room for Marquese Chriss, which reportedly came to fruition Friday morning.

So without further ado, here is Hollinger's complicated, complex explanation:

If the Warriors waived Chriss after the game against Boston on Nov. 15, he would accrue $247,205 in salary before he was waived (including the two days he spent on waivers).

Here’s the trick: They would have to sign a 14th player to fill Chriss’ spot based on league rules, but would NOT need to do so immediately. Teams have up to two weeks to fill the hole. Those two weeks of a zero salary on the books are huge for Golden State.

It wouldn’t need to sign another player until the end of November. The Warriors could then repeat the dance a couple more times – sign a player (perhaps bringing back Chriss) to a non-guaranteed deal for two weeks, waive him, wait two weeks, sign a player for two more weeks, waive him, wait two weeks. This is the exact trick Miami used in the second half of last season to skirt the luxury tax.

By signing players from Nov. 29 to Dec. 12, and again from Dec. 26 to Jan. 8, the Warriors would add another $146,492 in salary each time. (Note that even a zero-years of service player would count as making the two-year veteran minimum for the purposes of the hard cap calculation, so they can’t cheat the system here by signing a rookie.)

The next time they’d need to sign somebody would be Jan. 22, when 10-day contracts are in play. They could sign a player to a 10-day from Jan. 22 to Jan. 31, costing them $91,557. Again, the date matters: Jan. 31 would be a strategically great time for that 10-day to end. Golden State can leave the 14th spot open through the trade deadline and, if it remains unfilled, through the All-Star break before signing another 10-day coming out of the break.

That 10-day span, lasting from Feb. 19 to Feb. 28, would again cost $91,557 and end just in time for the Warriors to take advantage of buyout season. The last date to waive a player and have him be playoff eligible is March 1.

As a result, the total cost of that 14th roster spot — listed on their cap sheet at $1,620,564 if they keep Chriss — could end up only being $723,303 on their books as of March 1.

That is a huge deal for the Warriors because it would leave them $1.13 million from the hard cap line … meaning they could sign not one but two buyout players for the veteran’s minimum ($421,164 as of March 1) and still stay under the hard cap.

Makes perfect sense, right? Your head isn't spinning?

Did you get all of that, Bob Myers?

So in a nutshell -- if Chriss signs a non-guaranteed contract (like Alfonzo McKinnie), the Warriors can treat the 14th roster spot like a revolving door until early March when they can finalize the final two spots for the stretch run.

[RELATEDKlay's dad gives hopeful target date for son's Dubs return]

If this, in fact, is what the Warriors plan on doing, the whole operation could be derailed by one injury.

For now, you should probably scroll up and re-read the details.

Perhaps do it multiple times until they sink in.

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LeBron James says Warriors not weird without Steph Curry, Klay Thompson

LeBron James says Warriors not weird without Steph Curry, Klay Thompson

Over the last five years, LeBron James has grown accustomed to battling the Warriors at the height of their powers.

James and the Cleveland Cavaliers dueled the Dubs in four consecutive NBA Finals, both with and without Kevin Durant. There were, of course, a few important constants in each of those Finals battles with James, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green all sharing the floor.

Oh, how the times have changed.

Last season, James' first with the Lakers, he missed the playoffs for the first time since his second season in the NBA. While the Lakers recharged over the offseason with the acquisition of Anthony Davis, the Warriors went the other way. Decimated by injuries and the exodus of key players like Durant, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, the Warriors find themselves gutting out a transition year with both Curry (broken hand) and Thompson (torn ACL) expected to miss most of, if not the entire season.

As such, Wednesday night's battle between James' Lakers and the Warriors minus Curry and Thompson felt weird to all those watching. But it didn't feel weird to James.

"Not when you're in it, you know," James said after the Lakers' 120-94 win at Staples Center, via ESPN. "Not when you're in it. I think when I'm watching them, you know, when I'm at home and we're on off nights and I'm watching them -- then it becomes weird then just seeing Klay in a suit and, you know, not seeing Steph out there. But not when you're playing. I played them in the Finals without Kyrie and Kevin. So no." 

Was that last part wasn't necessary? We get it, the 2015 Cavs were a few stars short of a full deck and the outcome could have been different had everyone been healthy. It happens, let's move on.

[RELATED: Warriors' defense goes missing again in loss vs. Lakers]

Despite what James said, playing a Warriors team that is not even a shell of its former self had to feel weird after spending four years at each other's throats.

James and the Lakers no doubt are glad to see the Warriors removed from the Western Conference's crowded puzzle this season, leaving one less formidable opponent in their path to a title.

But Curry and Thompson will be back, and the Warriors will get off the mat soon enough.

Klay Thompson had priceless reaction to JaVale McGee's dunk during interview

Klay Thompson had priceless reaction to JaVale McGee's dunk during interview

For most of this season, if not all, Klay Thompson's highlights will be off the court.

As the Warriors star shooting guard recovers from a torn ACL, his big moments will come in the form of being left hanging by teammates, Japanese spa Instagrams and sideline interview moments.

Such was the case Wednesday during the Warriors' 120-94 loss to the Lakers at Staples Center. With the Dubs trailing by 21 midway through the fourth quarter, Thompson chatted with ESPN. Shortly into the interview, Thompson's old Warriors teammate and current Lakers center JaVale McGee threw down a dunk to swell the lead to 23, and Klay's reaction says it all.

The Warriors miss Thompson on both ends of the floor this season. While his silky shooting stroke would give them another dynamic offensive weapon, it's his defense that would give the Dubs an immeasurable boost. 

Without Thompson, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala, the Warriors' defense has plummeted from one of the best units in the NBA to one of the league's worst. Wednesday night's loss was a prime example as LeBron James and the Lakers got whatever they wanted from the jump, feasting on the Warriors' shoddy defense.

[RELATED: Warriors' defense again goes missing in loss vs. Lakers]

Until he and Steph Curry can return to the court, Thompson will have just gave to grit his teeth and watch his young teammates go through some severe NBA growing pains.