Klay Thompson open to returning to Warriors in smaller role

Golden State Warriors v Philadelphia 76ers

Golden State Warriors v Philadelphia 76ers

Extension talks between Klay Thompson and the Golden State Warriors remain unresolved — if the season ended today Thompson would be headed toward free agency. We are watching Thompson’s basketball mortality play out before our eyes this season, and combine that with the Warriors’ struggles and the speculation has ramped up. Will Thompson be back with the Warriors next season? Can he accept a smaller role and the smaller pay that comes with it?

Thompson is willing to accept that smaller role if it means staying with the franchise that drafted with him, he told Logan Murdock of the Ringer.

“Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with that,” he tells me. “I’ll be 35 next year. At 35, coming off the ACL and an Achilles [tear] and still have the ability to be a really good player. Maybe not the guy who scored 60 in three quarters and scored an NBA record 37 points in a quarter, but still a great threat out there. I’ve modeled my game after Reggie [Miller] and Ray [Allen], and those guys were incredibly effective until their late 30s. So I plan on kind of following that mold…

“The Warriors before we got there had a good history as far as Wilt and Rick Barry and TMC and We Believe. I think we elevated that to another level. I just think it’s a special group, and when we win and go to so many championships together, it’s like a bond for life. It’s probably the best part of the job, honestly. Trumps the money, trumps the fame, just being able to have a bond for life with those guys.”

Thompson remains a good player, averaging 16.9 points a game this season, shooting 37.3% from 3, and while he is not the same elite defender he once was, he’s solid. He’s also saying all the right things.

Ultimately the Warriors want to keep Thompson in town and he wants to stay in town, and in those cases eventually a deal usually gets figured out.

The question is what kind of salary and how many years for Thompson? The Warriors want to stay under the second tax apron (projected at $189 million), and they have $141 million on the books for next season — right at the salary cap number — with seven guaranteed players on the roster, not including Thompson (this includes not picking up the non-guaranteed contracts of Chris Paul and Kevon Looney). Last summer Draymond Green signed a four-year, $100 million contract and the Warriors likely want to keep Thompson and Green on about the same timeline in terms of years. How the Warriors fit Thompson into that, get younger and more athletic, and whether Andrew Wiggins is part of that future, are some of the hard questions the team and GM Mike Dunleavy have to answer this summer.

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