Warriors CEO Joe Lacob has made it quite clear over the years that he will pay whatever it takes to field a competitive team.
Lacob wants to win -- badly -- and he knows that comes at a cost.
And with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green all locked up to massive contracts, the price tag for the Warriors is going to be exorbitant every season.
With Andrew Wiggins now in the fold, those four players alone accounted for over $139 million in salary this past season, well above the $112.4 million cap and even exceeding the $136.6 million luxury tax threshold. By filling out the roster, Golden State's final total salary was nearly $176 million.
All that spending led to a luxury tax bill of over $170 million, resulting in the Warriors paying north of $346 million for the team that won its fourth NBA title in eight seasons.
But aside from Wiggins and free agents signed to veteran minimum contracts last summer, the Warriors were a team full of players they drafted and developed. And it's for that reason that Lacob isn't a fan of the current luxury tax situation implemented by the league.
"The hardest thing of all is navigating this luxury tax, unfortunately," Lacob said to Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner on the last episode of their "Point Forward" podcast. "I went back to New York this week for labor meetings. I'm on the committee. And you know, obviously, the league wants everyone to have a chance and right now, there's a certain element out there that believes we "checkbook win," we won because we have the most salaries on our team.
"The truth is, we're only $40 million more than the luxury tax. Now, that's not small but it's not a massive number. We're $200 million over in total because most of that is this incredible penal luxury tax. And what I consider to be unfair and I'm going to say it on this podcast and I hope it gets back to whoever is listening ... and obviously it's self-serving for me to say this, but I think it's a very unfair system because our team is built by -- all top eight players are all drafted by this team."
Wiggins obviously wasn't drafted by the Warriors but as Iguodala reminded Lacob, the former No. 1 pick was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves with his Bird Rights intact, meaning the Warriors could go over the salary cap to retain him.
"Right," Lacob said. "And we have guys that were undrafted and we found and developed in Santa Cruz. We had not one free agent who isn't a minimum. Not one. All minimums the guys we brought in this year. So the only guy you could make a case for us outspending the competition, not being fair is that we turned [Kevin] Durant leaving into one guy who turned into Wiggins, and that worked out great. But they all criticized us for doing it, said he was overpaid and that [we] did a bad deal. So you can't have it both ways."
While the Warriors always have had to fill out their roster with free agent signings, the two major moves they made for outside talent prior to the Wiggins trade was the signing of Durant and the sign-and-trade to bring Iguodala to the team in 2013.
Still, the Warriors are having to pay high taxes for keeping their team intact, rather than dismantle it.
"It's penal because we are self-developed, a homegrown team," Lacob said. "We really are."
While Lacob believes the current grumbling is unwarranted, there is one move he'll accept blowback for.
"I understand why they got mad at us for the Durant thing but anyone else would have done it too, if you want to go there," Lacob said. "That's the truth. And this one, I don't know how they could be mad because we're homegrown. And I think the luxury tax, you should be paying a high luxury tax if you're using it to go get free agents and outspend your competition. But if you're developing your own guys and paying Steph Curry what he deserves and Klay Thompson what he's earned, why am I paying $200 million in luxury tax? I don't think that's fair."
Fair or not, this is the current situation the Warriors are in and it's not going away anytime soon. Curry, Thompson and Green are locked up for several more seasons. Wiggins and Jordan Poole are in line for extensions in the near future. If young players like James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody reach their potential over the next few seasons, they could get massive extensions, sending the Warriors' salary even higher.
Lacob doesn't like how things are being handled now, but he'll gladly pay the bill if the Warriors continue to contend and extend the dynasty for the next decade.