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The Golden State Warriors are reportedly working under the assumption Jordan Poole and Draymond Green can mend fences.
Anthony Slater of The Athletic reported Poole has not given Warriors management a “him-or-me ultimatum” regarding Green despite their preseason altercation causing a “scar” in the locker room that “might never” heal.
Green infamously punched Poole in the face during a practice back-and-forth at training camp, leading to the four-time All-Star briefly stepping away from the team. The Warriors chose not to suspend Green, and they managed to play together without major incident this season, but coach Steve Kerr admitted the team never recovered.
“Anytime some trust is lost, then it makes the process much more difficult, and there was some trust lost,” Kerr told reporters last month. “That’s as blunt as I can be. We have to get back to what has made us really successful, which is a really trusting environment and a group that relies on one another and makes each other better.”
It may be Poole’s contract, more than his relationship with Green, that greases the wheels of his exit. Poole signed a four-year contract extension worth up to $140 million in October, and the deal kicks in next season. He’ll make $27.5 million in 2023-24, which will send Golden State’s taxable salaries well over the $200 million mark.
The NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement includes prohibitive restrictions on the league’s richest teams—a provision seemingly aimed at the Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers. Any team $17.5 million over the tax apron will have its roster flexibility significantly hindered by penalties including the loss of any cap exceptions, the inability to sign players on the buyout market and the freezing of draft pick seven years into the future.
The rule is essentially as close as the NBA will get to a hard salary cap. Even the ownership groups that tend to spend the most won’t want their flexibility hindered seven years down the line.
Keeping Green and Poole under contract would send the Warriors soaring over that new threshold. While the new rules won’t fully be implemented until the 2024-25 season, giving teams a chance to get their ducks in a row, there is no long-term scenario where all three of Poole, Green and Klay Thompson remain on the roster for years to come.
If Green and Poole could mend fences, there’s an argument in favor of making Thompson the odd man out. Poole has excelled when given the opportunity to play with the starting unit and is a full decade younger than Thompson, who has not returned to form defensively after suffering two catastrophic leg injuries.
The conversation around Thompson is much more difficult because he’s beloved, but from a basketball perspective, handing a starting spot to the 23-year-old who can capably play either guard position is not the worst idea in the world.