The Oklahoma City Thunder rescinded the qualifying offer to guard Dion Waiters on Monday, making him an unrestricted free agent, league sources told The Vertical.
The move protects salary cap space for the Thunder’s primary offseason objective, league sources said: persuading five-time All-Star guard Russell Westbrook to renegotiate his contract, which would eliminate his 2017 free agency.
The Thunder still hold Waiters’ Bird Rights and could re-sign him to a deal, but several teams with salary-cap space – including Brooklyn and Philadelphia – make it unlikely that Waiters returns to the Thunder.
For Westbrook, the most likely scenario for a renegotiation would be to use the Thunder’s cap space to guarantee he will stay under contract with the Thunder through the 2017-18 season. This would give Oklahoma City the chance to recruit one of its top targets – 2017 free agent and Oklahoma native Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers – to partner with Westbrook, league sources said.
The Houston Rockets recently completed a similar renegotiation with All-Star guard James Harden.
Westbrook and his agent, Thad Foucher of Wasserman Media Group, have been in regular contact with Thunder general manager Sam Presti since Kevin Durant’s departure on July 4, but Westbrook has yet to make a commitment to renegotiate his contract and forgo free agency in 2017, league sources said.
Nevertheless, Westbrook is a proponent of the young talent on the Thunder roster and is eager to lead the team in the 2016-17 season, sources said. So far, league sources said, teams that have reached out to the Thunder about trading for Westbrook have been told that he isn’t available.
The Thunder protected themselves on the loss of Waiters with the signing of their 2013 draft pick, Spanish guard Alex Abrines, a top player in the Euroleague, and by acquiring guard Victor Oladipo in a trade with the Orlando Magic.
Without an offer sheet, Waiters could’ve cut into the Thunder’s salary cap space with the acceptance of a $6.7 million qualifying offer for the 2016-17 season, but the Thunder will no longer have Waiter’s $12.8 million cap hold count against the their cap once they renounce him and his Bird Rights – or he signs elsewhere.
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