Klay Thompson has spent his entire 12-year NBA career with the Golden State Warriors, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll be in the Bay Area beyond this season. He’s in the final year of his five-year, $189.9 million contract, and it appears as though he and the Warriors aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on the terms of his next deal yet.
In mid-October, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Warriors had made “absolutely no progress” on a Thompson extension. He said the two sides are “both still apart on years and money,” and “there’s a very real possibility” that Thompson will reach free agency next summer.
Shams Charania of The Athletic echoed that report on FanDuel TV’s Run It Back on Monday.
“There’s a significant gap in years and money,” Charania said. “The negotiations right now, from what I’m told, they’re at a dead point. So Thompson wants much more than what the Warriors are offering overall in both years and salary.”
The Warriors went through a similar song and dance with Draymond Green last season before signing him to a four-year, $100 million at the beginning of free agency in July. Thompson recently told Anthony Slater of The Athletic that he “absolutely” wants to retire a Warrior and that “it’d be so hard to envision” himself in another uniform, but money talks. If he feels slighted by the Warriors’ offer, he might be amenable to hearing out other teams, if only to leverage that interest into getting the Warriors to give him a bigger deal.
Enter the Sixers, stage right.
Sixers president Daryl Morey made it clear this offseason that he’s hoping to preserve as much salary-cap space as possible to put the team in a “very unique situation.” As Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype noted, only seven teams are currently projected to have cap space, and the Sixers are the only ones who aren’t in some form of a rebuild.
It’s hard to imagine that Thompson, who turns 34 in February, would like to spend the remaining years of his career with a rebuilding team like the Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Hornets or Washington Wizards. The San Antonio Spurs (Wemby!) and Orlando Magic are both on the rise thanks to their young talent, but both are likely years away from being true championship threats. The Sixers might be the only team that can give Thompson both a realistic shot at winning a fifth ring and the long-term financial security that he’s seeking.
His fit in Philly might boil down to how Tyrese Maxey fares in an expanded role this season.
Regardless of whether James Harden eventually suits up, new head coach Nick Nurse plans to give Maxey more on-ball reps. Maxey averaged a career-high 4.3 assists per game during the 2021-22 season—half of which he spent as the starting point guard amidst Ben Simmons’ holdout—but playmaking remains arguably the biggest swing skill for him moving forward.
If Maxey holds his own as the starting point guard, the Sixers can pursue a wider scope of archetypes as his long-term backcourt partner. If he doesn’t, they’ll have to look for a primary playmaker, which would likely eliminate Thompson from consideration.
Thompson, who led the NBA with 301 made three-pointers last year, is one of the best shooters in league history. The dribble hand-offs that were once a staple of the Sixers’ offense between JJ Redick and Joel Embiid would be that much more lethal with Thompson in place of Redick.
The question is whether the Sixers are willing to meet Thompson’s asking price. It’s unclear what he wants in terms of either years or salary, but the Harden saga from this past offseason suggests that they might balk at handing a nine-figure deal to a guard in his mid-30s. Thompson also missed the entire 2019-20 season with a torn ACL and the 2020-21 season with a torn Achilles, which adds even more risk to a big-money, long-term contract.
In all likelihood, cooler heads will eventually prevail between Thompson and the Warriors, and he’ll either sign an extension or re-sign with them as a free agent. It’s hard to imagine Thompson leaving Green and Stephen Curry unless the Warriors’ season goes completely off the rails, forcing the front office to re-evaluate the future of that core.
However, the second apron in the new collective bargaining agreement is basically designed to break up expensive teams like the Warriors. If Thompson isn’t willing to take a deal in the neighborhood of what Green received this summer, there’s a chance that the Sixers could outbid the Warriors without completely breaking the bank. (Besides, the number of years on his next contract will be far more important than his annual salary.)
The Sixers might not be Thompson’s No. 1 choice next summer, and Thompson might not be their No. 1 option in free agency, either. But if they strike out on the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Pascal Siakam and/or O.G. Anunoby while the Warriors and Thompson can’t find a middle ground, the Sixers would likely be Thompson’s best option, and vice versa.