Before NBA free agency began, the Warriors made it known they wanted to bring back Gary Payton II, and they were considered the favorites to sign the versatile wing.
But once players were able to talk to other teams, it became clear Payton's price tag was going to be a lot higher than the Warriors anticipated.
In the end, Payton went from making $1.9 million last season with the Warriors to signing a three-year contract with the Portland Trail Blazers worth $29 million.
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The decision not to match the Blazers' offer for Payton reportedly "stung" members of the Warriors' organization, who developed him into a key member of the rotation.
Warriors CEO Joe Lacob spoke to The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on Thursday and touched on numerous topics, including not bringing back several of their own free agents and the luxury tax bill Golden State will be paying yet again.
"No surprise to us that if these guys got ... like Gary Payton had a good year and if he got a big offer, it was going to be very unlikely we were going to re-sign him, no matter how much we love him," Lacob told Kawakami. "And we did like him a lot. He got a much bigger offer, in fact, than we thought he would get. Way beyond. And I'm not saying he's not worth it or is worth it. But it is a lot. And it's not something we really could entertain doing."
The Warriors also lost Otto Porter Jr. to the Toronto Raptors. They would have liked to bring him back but he simply played himself out of Golden State's price range.
Golden State Warriors
"And Otto Porter," Lacob told Kawakami. "Had a great year for us. I'm not saying he's not deserving of what he got because he is. But if he got that, we knew we'd be in trouble. And so that's how it played out. To some extent, these guys played really well and made themselves more valuable and we made them more valuable. And so unfortunately in that situation, they have to move on and we have to bring in some other guys."
With Payton, Porter, Nemanja Bjelica, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damion Lee gone in free agency, the Warriors had roster spots to fill.
Surprisingly, Donte DiVincenzo became a free agent when the Kings declined to make him a qualifying offer. Even more surprisingly, the Warriors were able to get him on a two-year contract worth $9.3 million.
And while Warriors might have wanted to bring back Payton, the different in prices for him and DiVincenzo worked out better for Lacob, team president Bob Myers and the rest of the front office.
"Now, we did step it up with Donte DiVincenzo in a way we probably weren't planning on doing but after losing several guys and feeling pretty bleak, he became an opportunity," Lacob told Kawakami. "Very good player. He became an opportunity and we had to step as far as we could go. As a result of that, we're over where we were last year, significantly, which is already an NBA record.
"And Donte was not a minimum. Last year, we signed all minimums. Having said that, the difference between Donte and Gary, let's say, it's not just that. Gary was a minimum player last year. And you multiply everything by six or seven, or whatever the multiple is, it's an enormous amount of money. So I guess the answer to your question is, I wasn't really too optimistic in the beginning that we'd be able to retain all of these guys. We thought we could retain one or two. It didn't go that way. It went worse than that. Or better, if you will, for them."
Lacob defended how the Warriors are spending money in regards to their total team salary and subsequent luxury tax bill, which will be enormous again.
"You may remember last year when we went through this, everyone said Bob had a bad free agency," Lacob said. "He only signed minimums. And the reason is, really, when you're top heavy like we are, you've got these guys who have been with our team for a long time, Steph [Curry], Klay [Thompson], Draymond [Green]. You can add [Andrew] Wiggins on top of that. Four big contracts, three that have been with us for a long time and are making a lot of money. They take up the entire payroll, normalized. So to go over that, we knew last year, we didn't use the mid-level, we were pretty clear we likely weren't going to use it. Same thing, for the most part this year. But we know we have to fill out the bottom end of the roster with minimums and be very smart about it.
"We were criticized last year but actually, Bob did an incredible job. Talk about everything working out. All of those guys ... [Andre] Iguodala was injured quite a bit, but other than that, it worked out really, really well. And the problem with that, on the other end, today, those guys, because we won and because they played well, are a lot more valuable than they were a year ago. We're in the same situation we were a year ago. We can't do much more than minimums. We can't go sign free agents. We don't have the money to do it."
Warriors fans were attached to players like Payton, Porter and Toscano-Anderson, players with good stories who helped the team win an NBA championship. But the front office always has to make tough decisions and letting those players walk was hard.
The hope for the Warriors is that their young players -- Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman, Moses Moody and 2022 first-round draft pick Patrick Baldwin Jr. -- can step up and fill the minutes left by the free agent departures. If they can, it will make the loses sting a lot less.