NBA approves Disabled Player Exception, but using it will be tricky for Golden State

DPE can be used to sign a free agent, claim one off waivers, or in a trade; but options are limited and cost will be steep

The Golden State Warriors have been granted the Disabled Player Exception (DPE) that they asked for, and now comes the hard part. Worth $9.3 million, this is a salary cap exemption that will allow the cap-constrained Warriors to add another player due to the season-ending loss of Klay Thompson.

As reported by Shams Charania, this contract vehicle will expire on April 19th, so there’s no urgency to use it right away - which is good because this is one of the more complicated decisions facing the Warriors this season.

The franchise is at a crossroads.

On the tail end of a strong dynastic run, there is legitimate uncertainty about how to best proceed forward from here. Just two years ago the team was unbeatable, winning three of the last four championships. But then, calamity: two stars go down with season-ending injuries and the team evaporates when Kevin Durant decides he would rather go play someplace else.

But with a few more years of Stephen Curry’s prime still available, he deserves the best roster that can be feasibly assembled.

Cost-benefits analysis: an exceedingly tricky situation

After an off year without the Splash Brothers, the Warriors were poised to come roaring back onto the scene, reminding everyone what the core of this squad did in 2015 when they shocked the world. But 2020 did what it’s been doing, and wrecked all of that when Klay Thompson’s Achilles delivered a heavy blow to a franchise already weakened.

Down but not out, the Warriors front office did what it could in free agency and the draft. The team is now longer and more athletic, with a trio of wings that should thrive alongside Curry and Draymond Green. But as nice as Kelly Oubre, Andrew Wiggins, and Kent Bazemore are, this team still forecasts as a fringe playoff team.

Already more expensive than any iteration of the super teams that they’ve fielded in the past, this is a question of deeper investment into this year - for a player that by definition can only come here on a single year contract, and will be extremely expensive because of tax implications.

The list of players around that price range is fairly pedestrian - there’s no one name down here that immediately catapults the Warriors from the 7th or 8th to the best team in the West:

And beyond the marginal improvement aspect, the Warriors will also have to factor in the cost of the transaction. It’s not just a question of how much money Joe Lacob would have to pay for a year of PJ Tucker’s services; his old team, the Houston Rockets, aren’t going to just dump him for nothing. Would a second round pick (plus the salary dump be enough?

Once the math extends to include young players like Kevon Looney or Eric Paschall, this suddenly becomes a much less interesting proposition (which it seems likely in order to interest the trade partner).

A question not just of “who,” but also “how” and “why.”

Whether it be PJ Tucker, Lou Williams, or Derrick Rose, the sentiment above applies: how much does this player help, what’s it going to take, and does it move the needle enough to make sense?

The case for standing pat

In a vacuum, it’s hard to see the Warriors landing a player like Tucker or Rose without including additional assets, and without any additional moves, it’s not clear how much stronger it really makes this roster.

Plus, the top of the Warriors rotation is set and looks to be fairly well-balanced (pending the impact of 19-year old Wiseman, of course), if lacking the star power of previous years.

It’s a crowded Western Conference this season. But there is room for the Warriors in the playoffs.

With the two LA teams, and Denver shoe-ins, and teams like Dallas, Portland, and Utah filling out the middle, that leaves two playoff spots up for grabs between the Suns, Warriors, Rockets, and Grizzlies/Pelicans(?).

With Curry and Green returning at full strength, alongside hyper athletic wings in Wiggins, Oubre, and Bazemore, this seems like a fun roster to root for. And while the froncourt rotation of Chriss, Wiseman, and Looney may struggle against some of the bigger teams, this entire roster is built for speed.

Brad Wanamaker and perhaps Mannion will be backing up the point guard role and help a little bit to stop the bleeding when Curry sits, but at the end of the day, this roster will go as far as Curry (and to a lesser extent, Green) can carry it.

So…would you?

It’s fun and easy to shout “PJ TUCKER!” into the universe, but he may not be available for an acceptable price. As much as I’d like to bring him in, it is really unclear if just the DPE and a second-round pick would be enough to pry him away from Houston. The same could be said for any of the TPE targets floating around out there.

The Warriors have until April to see what develops in the open market, but in the meantime, we should all be prepared for the reality of the Warriors not utilizing this contract vehicle to bring in another player if the asking price gets too steep.

The upcoming draft class is reportedly deep, and with the Warriors already holding a nice pick from the Timberwolves, they should also have their own first round selection to play with (assuming they don’t finish the season in the top 10).

For a franchise at the crossroads, using this recently approved DPE will be far from a simple decision.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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