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Warriors may not be ready to end dynasty, but hard choices await

LOS ANGELES — To a man the Warriors were clear:

They are not ready to break up this championship core.

“Draymond. Klay. Steph. Our core guys, they have plenty left to offer,” Steve Kerr said.

“I want to be a Warrior for the rest of my life,” Draymond Green said after he watched from the bench as the final minutes of the Warriors season ran out. “I want to ride out with the same dudes I rode in with.”

After a disappointing season by the Warriors’ championship standards — one where this team’s core started to show its age and the miles on its bodies — they likely will run it back, but it won’t be the same. Not in terms of the roster — the “two timelines” idea failed spectacularly this season and changes are coming — and not in terms of the finances of this roster, with a much more punitive new CBA looming like a dark cloud.

The Warriors have hard decisions: Keep Draymond Green with an extension? Keep Jordan Poole? Extend Klay Thompson, and at what number? Is there an expanded role for Jonathan Kumiga? There are a lot of questions to be answered this summer.

Everything starts with GM Bob Myers.

The architect of the Warriors dynasty and the guy who built strong relationships with this core — the man best suited to have conversations with Green and Thompson about taking less money — is a pending free agent himself. Myers’ contract is up on June 30, but Golden State will want a decision well before that (the NBA Draft is June 22).

Owner Joe Lacob has said he offered Myers a new contract (the details of which are not public). There is a sense around the team that Lacob and company want to keep the core of this franchise together, not just on the court but in the front office as well. Nobody knows what Myers wants or plans to do (and that may well include Myers himself). It will look and feel different if a new man steers the ship, even if he goes down the same path.

Anthony Slater and Shams Charania at The Athletic report Myers will take a few weeks to decide on his next course. Once he does, the real challenge of rebuilding this team starts.

The Warriors are set to have a payroll well north of $210 million next season, which will have them more than $48 million over the luxury tax line. Under the strict rules of the new CBA, that would have them more than $30 million over the second apron, meaning no mid-level exception, no trades where they bring back more than they send out, no buyout market mid-season, basically just minimum contracts to round out the roster. Essentially running it back.

That’s not good enough. The Warriors may have no choice but to eat that tax bill and live with the restrictions for a season.

Stephen Curry is still one of the best players on the planet, a true franchise cornerstone, and a guy who can lead a team to a title. He’s locked in with his last extension and will make $51.9 million next season and has four years, $167.3 million left on his contract. He’s also 35 years old. He’s as well conditioned and mentally tough an athlete as there is, but he needs more help.

Klay Thompson can be part of that. He is on the books next season at $43.2 million and is extension eligible. The reality of his game showed in this playoff series against the Lakers, when he was 7-of-27 (25.9%) from 3 over the final three games, and wasn’t the same defensive force (nor was he all season). Thompson is good, he puts in the work, but at age 33 and with his injury history, he is closer to average than a max player. The Warriors will want to extend and keep him, but at a much lower price than what he was making. It’s a delicate negotiation (and this is where having Myers on board helps).

Draymond Green has a $27.6 million player option and while he could walk out the door as a free agent, his own words and the buzz around the league suggest an extension is coming. While he is still an elite defender, he is 33 and his offensive game is fading. That extension the Warriors will offer is at a lower number than his option, and again this is a delicate negotiation.

Then there is Jordan Poole, who was nearly unplayable against the Lakers after a season where he took a step back — in part because his role changed, and he got punched by Green before the season — and his salary next season jumps from $3.9 million to $28.2 million thanks to the extension he signed last summer.

That makes Poole the most likely Warrior to be traded. Fair or not. Other teams will look at him as a high-quality wing who just needs a new environment to return to being of real value as a shooter and shot-creator. If the Warriors can trade him but bring back less salary (or none, depending on the move) they can start to trim the payroll.

Then there is the Jonathon Kuminga question. He took some steps forward this season and after the All-Star break averaged 13.2 points a game and shot 44% from 3 on the couple of attempts he took a game. Yet come the playoffs, Kerr didn’t trust him or play him. The Athletic reports that he wants a larger role or to be traded next season.

All of that doesn’t get into guys such as Donte DiVincenzo, who likely played his way into a bigger contract than the Warriors will want to pay with his playoff performance.

It’s a lot. Part of what happens depends on what Lacob and the ownership group are willing to pay. They have hinted in the past that anything north of $400 million in salary and tax would be more than they are willing to pay, but next season they could be $50 million or more above that number (and have limited ways to build the team because of it). Would ownership be willing to eat that money for a year knowing that in the 2024-25 season that bill could drop, maybe considerably? Curry will be 37 by then, will he still be able to perform at that level?

There are no easy answers.

But the questions start with will Bob Myers be the one answering them?