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Summer agenda: OKC Thunder (Kevin Durant's free-agent options)

·The Vertical
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The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a 20-year executive with the Nets, offers his thoughts on the offseason plans of NBA teams whose seasons have ended.

THE PLAN GOING FORWARD
Kevin Durant’s free agency
Sometimes what you already know trumps the unknown.

For Kevin Durant, what he has in Oklahoma City is a team that was one win from the NBA Finals. It’s a young roster that will return a starting lineup that includes fellow franchise player Russell Westbrook, along with key bench players. Unlike Golden State, San Antonio or Miami, the Thunder will not have to gut their team to sign Durant

Thunder management needs to focus on the future in its pitch to Durant. With a heavy emphasis on the long-term plan, Oklahoma City has to take the same approach of Golden State or San Antonio when courting Durant.

Kevin Durant, center, has some decisions to make this offseason. (AP)
Kevin Durant, center, has some decisions to make this offseason. (AP)

Remember, this is Durant’s first time going through free agency.

When the dust settles, it’s likely Durant will be returning to the Thunder. The question: For how long?

Because Durant is a year shy of becoming a Tier 3 max player, Oklahoma City could be going through the same process a year from now.

Durant could sign a one-year contract with a player option for a second year and become a free agent again in 2017. That would allow Durant to earn a starting max salary of $35 million.

Durant would also join Westbrook as two of the top free agents in 2017.

Durant’s contract options
One-year deal then extension
With OKC
2016-17: $25.8 million
With OKC                               With another team
2017-18: $35.7 million            $35.7 million
2018-19: $38.4 million            $37.7 million
2019-20: $41.1 million            $38.9 million
2020-21: $43.8 million            $40.6 million
2021-22: $46.5 million
Totals: $205.7 million              $152.7 million

Waiting until summer 2017 does come with tremendous risk.

With a new Collective Bargaining Agreement likely in 2017, there is no guarantee the current rules will be in place a year from now. There is also the risk of injury.

Durant did miss most of the 2014-15 season with a serious foot injury.

The financial sacrifice of signing a long-term contract in July would be substantial, but sometimes financial security outweighs the risk.

Immediate long-term deal
With OKC                                 With another team
2016-17: $25.8 million              $25.8 million
2017-18: $27.8 million              $27.0 million
2018-19: $29.7 million              $28.2 million
2019-20: $31.7 million              $29.4 million
2020-21: $33.6 million
Totals: $148.8 million                $110.5 million

Plan B
Until the ink on Durant’s contract is dry, Oklahoma City has to operate with a measure of uncertainty.

With a roster built on previous drafts and trades, Oklahoma City has never been big spenders in free agency. In fact, the Anthony Morrow contract is the biggest free-agent deal Thunder management has signed in recent years.

The Thunder need to have every possible option at their disposal, including scouring for free agents and exploring trade targets, while taking into account the status of its current roster.

Dion Waiters restricted free agency
The Thunder will need to take into account the full body of work for Dion Waiters and not just his contributions during the playoffs.

Waiters, a restricted free agent, has been inconsistent in his four years in the league and has not shown the ability to be a starter. Waiters, 24, may have found the perfect role on Oklahoma City’s bench.

Even with the cap rising to $92 million, Waiters could find the free-agent market challenging because of the Thunder’s ability to match any offer sheet and Waiters not being among the top 10 available shooting guards.

Steven Adams and Andre Roberson extensions
Free agency for Durant and Westbrook could play a role in what direction the Thunder take with extension talks for Andre Roberson and Steven Adams.

Both players are entering the final season of their contracts and are eligible for extensions until Oct. 31.

Adams and Roberson, both starters, have steadily developed since being drafted in 2013.

With low cap holds next July (Adams, $7.5 million; Roberson, $5.4 million), Oklahoma City would be best off keeping its cap flexibility in 2017, especially considering that both players could see their salaries double next year.

TEAM NEEDS
If Durant and Waiters return, Oklahoma City will only have two roster spots open.

However, with Durant and Waiters in the fold, Oklahoma City will be pressed against the luxury tax, making its options limited in free agency.

The continued development of Cameron Payne and the health of Mitch McGary will be important for the Thunder to address their needs at backup point guard and center.

SUMMER CAP BREAKDOWN

Guaranteed

   2016-17

     Insider info

1. Russell Westbrook

   $17,769,374

     Eligible for extension

2. Enes Kanter

   $17,148,838

     Trade bonus

3. Serge Ibaka

   $12,250,000

     Eligible for extension

4. Kyle Singler

   $4,837,500

     None

5. Nick Collison

   $3,750,000

     None

6. Steven Adams

   $3,140,581

     Eligible for rookie extension

7. Andre Roberson

   $2,183,072

     Eligible for rookie extension

8. Cameron Payne

   $2,112,480

     None

9. Mitch McGary

   $1,526,040

     None

10. Josh Huestis

   $1,191,480

     None

Non/partial

   2016-17

     Guarantee date

11. Anthony Morrow

   $3,488,000

     Full protection after July 15

FA cap holds

   2016-17

     Free-agent status

12. Kevin Durant

   $25,136,750

     Full Bird rights

13. Dion Waiters

   $12,846,075

     Restricted/full Bird rights

14. Randy Foye

   $5,956,500

     Full Bird rights

15. Nazr Mohammed

   $980,431

     Non-Bird rights

CAP PICTURE

Guaranteed

   $65,909,365

Non/partial

   $3,488,000

FA cap holds

   $44,919,756

First-round holds

   $0

Minimum holds

   $0

Dead money

   $0

Total

   $114,317,121

Salary cap

   $92,000,000

Cap space

   None ($22,317,121 over)

 PROJECTED CAP SPACE
The Thunder, currently with $65 million in guaranteed contracts, are over the cap based on the $37 million in cap holds for Durant and Waiters, and Morrow’s $3.4 million non-guaranteed contract.

If Durant and Waiters return, the Thunder could be one of the few clubs operating as a luxury-tax team.

The Thunder could create $22 million in cap space, but that comes with the loss of Durant and not bringing back Waiters.

JUNE DRAFT PICKS
First round: To Philadelphia

Second round: To Denver

FUTURE PICKS
First round
2018: To Utah (protected Nos. 1-14)

2019: To Utah (protected Nos. 1-14) if no first in 2018

2020: To Utah (protected Nos. 1-14) if no first in 2019

Note: The Utah pick will turn into two second-round picks in 2020 and 2021 if no first is conveyed by 2020.

Key rights to: Dakari Johnson (second round, pick No. 48, 2015); Semaj Christon (second round, pick No. 55, 2015); Alex Abrines (second round, pick No. 32, 2013); Tomislav Zubcic (second round, pick No. 56, 2012).

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