Truth can be a matter of perspective.
When the Warriors won the NBA title, other teams whispered it was a “checkbook title” because Golden State paid an NBA-record $170 million in luxury taxes and $346 million in total paychecks. Not every franchise can afford that.
In the eyes of Warriors CEO/co-owner Joe Lacob, the league’s luxury tax is unfair because it penalizes his team for putting together, developing and holding together their core (players like Stephen Curry, Kla Thompson and Draymond Green).
Lacob went to the “Point Forward” podcast with Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner and said the following (hat tip NBC Sports Bay Area):
“Unfortunately, the most difficult thing is dealing with this luxury tax. I returned to New York this week for work meetings. I’m on the committee. And you know, of course, that the league wants everyone to have a chance, and right now there’s a certain element out there that believes we’re “check book win,” we won because we have the most salaries on our team .
“The truth is we only pay $40 million more than the luxury tax. Well, that’s not small, but it’s not a huge number. We have a total of $200 million too much because most of it is this incredible luxury tax. And what I think is unfair and I’m going to say it on this podcast and I hope it comes back to whoever is listening… and of course it’s selfish of me to say that but I think it’s a very unfair system, because our team is built by – all top eight players are all drafted by this team.”
Iguodala immediately noticed that the warriors had not drafted Andrew Wiggins; They accepted his maximum salary.
“Right. And we’ve got guys that didn’t get called up that we found and developed in Santa Cruz. We didn’t have one free agent that’s no minimum. Not one. All the minimums of the guys that we brought with us this year. The only guy you could bring in for us to outperform the competition isn’t fair we turned around [Kevin] Durant went into a guy who turned into Wiggins and it worked out great. But everyone criticized us for it, saying he was overpaid and so on [we] got a bad deal. So you can’t have both.”
Again, it’s all a matter of perspective.
Lacob and the Warriors play under the current rules, where the tax is incremental (the higher a team exceeds the tax limit, the higher the tax). Golden State’s luxury tax bill is set to increase slightly to $141 million next season (estimate depends on in-season moves), but that could be second only to the Los Angeles Clippers, who are on track are to have a tax bill of $144 million. Teams in Luxury Tax are also subject to limitations in other team building mechanics (a minor exception at mid-level, they are severely limited by sign-and-trade or other moves).
It’s possible there will be more steps in the next CBA currently being negotiated to keep teams from going well over the tax line. However, when Lacob and the Warriors — who own the new Chase Center that prints money — or Steve Ballmer and the Clippers (he’s just stupidly rich) want to spend money, there are limits to what the CBA can do. (Nearing a hard cap, and players would NEVER go for it.)
Competing owners and teams will always push the boundaries and the rules to find an edge to win. There’s no greater advantage in all professional sports than dedicated and willing ownership – the Warriors have that. And the banners to go with it.