COMMENTARY | The Oklahoma City Thunder are quietly moving through the 2013 offseason.
Since the Memphis Grizzlies bounced them from the playoffs, the Thunder passed on amnestying Kendrick Perkins, they let Kevin Martin walk and have yet to make even the slightest splash in free agency.
So why the lack of interest in this year's free agent class and why the lack of interest in adding to an already potent squad?
One word: future.
The Thunder are a rarity. They are built for the future and have achieved contender status before truly reaching their peak.
Kevin Durant is the second best player in the world at 24 years old, Russell Westbrook is one of the best point guards in the world at 24 years old and Serge Ibaka is the NBA's premier shot blocker at 23.
They have a Finals appearance under their belts and have already asserted themselves as a Western Conference power and still they're only beginning to blossom.
Sam Presti and the Thunder's front office have to keep the future in mind while diving into free agency and it seems they have the end of Durant's and Westbrook's contracts in mind just as much as the beginning.
By letting Martin walk, the Thunder passed on overpaying now and decided to develop a young bench next season. They will likely turn the sixth-man role over to Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb while saving $28 million over the next four years by passing on Martin.
Jackson has already impressed Scott Brooks enough to earn the backup point guard role. Lamb also played well in garbage minutes with the Thunder and played well with the Tulsa 66ers last year. They will likely combine as the team's main scorers off the bench next season.
By passing on the amnesty clause with Perkins' contract the Thunder ultimately saved on value and assured themselves cap space in two seasons. They could have amnestied Perkins, but likely would have paid $10-15 million of the $18 million left on his contract.
The Thunder would have been paying Perkins more than his future team to play against them and would still have to spend money to replace him. Although they could still trade Perkins, they will likely play out his contract and drop $9 million per year in 2015.
Oklahoma City also showed they are looking for Perkins' replacement by drafting Steven Adams with the 12th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. He may be a project, but they would certainly like to bank on his potential two years from now.
According to HoopsHype, the Thunder will come in under the projected $71.6 million luxury tax threshold for the 2013-2014 season. If a team is over the tax-line, they will pay $1.50 for every $1.00 they are over to the league. The Thunder are also projected to come in under the threshold in 2014-2015.
By staying under the luxury tax and continuing to develop young talent, the Thunder are setting themselves up to be Miami Heat-good in two seasons.
Durant and Westbrook will be 27 during the 2015-2016 season and will be entering the absolute prime of their athletic careers. Ibaka will be 26 and will have two more seasons worth of knowledge in the post as well.
They will also have cap flexibility.
The Thunder will have a chance to land a fourth piece to go along with Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka. They could potentially land somebody like LaMarcus Aldridge or Brook Lopez who could each become free agents during the 2015 summer. Or if Adams develops, they could grab a third scorer on the perimeter.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook at 27, Serge Ibaka at 26, a developed Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb off the bench, no Kendrick Perkins and potentially another superstar to add to the mix.
Not to mention 2015-2016 is Durant's contract-year. The Thunder would obviously like to give him the max again and staying out of the luxury tax for the next two-three seasons helps the effort.
In a small market, it's best to think big picture.
Oklahoma City is not Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Miami, Chicago, Dallas or Houston. It's not easy for the Thunder to survive with a huge payroll. Especially when they hope to retain two of the best players in the world for their careers.
The Thunder and Presti are thinking big picture by staying quiet now and they could still win a championship along the way.
Although the present is glowing in Oklahoma City, the future is just as bright.
Trey Hunter lives in Oklahoma City and has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder with media credentials since 2011. He has been published on Hoops Addict and SB Nation. You can follow him on Twitter: @TreyHunter87 .
- Sports & Recreation
- Kendrick Perkins
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Kevin Durant
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