Warriors offseason may have just become more complicated after contract decision

Golden State Warriors v New York Knicks
Golden State Warriors v New York Knicks / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages

The first of many offseason developments has emerged for the Golden State Warriors, with defensive-minded guard Gary Payton II picking up his $9.1 million player option on Wednesday.

Payton could have opted out to become an unrestricted free agent where he may have renegotiated a new deal with the Warriors or tested the market, but instead has chosen to solidify his future for next season...Or has he?

Gary Payton II opting into his $9.1 million player option could actually further complicate the Golden State Warriors offseason

The easy assumption is that Payton's decision removes one element of a loaded plate for Golden State this offseason -- that the 31-year-old can be tucked away as a guaranteed member of next season's opening night roster, rather than being another free agent the front office has to hold conversations with.

Yet it's far deeper than that, and it can be argued that his decision to opt in actually further complicates matters for the Warriors on various levels. The first is their ambition to get under the second tax apron, and perhaps the luxury tax entirely this offseason, an endeavour that becomes all the more difficult by Payton opting in.

As a result, this decision could impact what Golden State choose to do with Chris Paul and Kevon Looney, and perhaps even influence what their willing to offer their biggest free agent piece in Klay Thompson.

As for Payton himself, the choice to opt in immediately makes him a potential trade candidate. According to The Athletic's Anthony Slater, the fan-favorite is "no guarantee" to remain at the franchise.

"Payton's midsized $9.1 million expiring deal could be valuable in salary-matching for potential trades. The Warriors are exploring various avenues to improve as draft and free agency near. So it's no guarantee he plays out the final season of this contract for Golden State."

Anthony Slater

While on one hand he could be a trade piece, on the other hand he and the franchise could also discuss a contact extension, as proposed by ESPN's Kendra Andrews. That may prove difficult given the injury issues Payton has faced over the past two years where he's played just 66 of a possible 164 regular season games.

As much as we'd like to tick this off as Payton's future being resolved for next season, this decision to opt in doesn't necessarily fortify that, and it only adds to the Warriors' financial burden that could influence the future of a number of other key players.