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A look at the key offseason moves and changes for every team in the league. Next up are the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Thinking about the future
For Oklahoma City, the health of the franchise always comes first.
On draft night, Kevin Durant’s free agency didn’t cloud management’s decision on what would be best for the team.
With Serge Ibaka set to enter the final year of his contract, Oklahoma City traded him to Orlando for a package that featured Victor Oladipo, lottery pick Domantas Sabonis and veteran Ersan Ilyasova.
Though Ibaka was an integral piece of the Thunder’s success, Oklahoma City received three players who will play key roles this season and in the future.
As this summer illustrated, the price tag for Ibaka next July will be high and would have limited the Thunder’s flexibility moving forward.
Sticking to principles
Kevin Durant can’t be replaced.
Oklahoma City, however, will be judged on how the franchise moves forward after the All-Star left for Golden State.
Though cap space was created by Durant’s departure, the Thunder weighed all options before a plan was put in place.
The franchise could have gone the quick-fix route, using cap space on the best available free agents for a short-term plan to rebuild the roster without Durant.
The Thunder instead stuck to their philosophy, building through the draft and making prudent trades, and their only free agents are Anthony Morrow and Ronnie Price.
With cap space preserved, Oklahoma City turned its attention to renegotiating the contract of All-Star Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook, set to be a free agent next summer, had his current rookie extension ripped up and replaced with a max contract that reflects the current salary cap with an additional two years (although 2018-19 is a player option).
With Westbrook under contract for at least the next two seasons, Oklahoma City will not enter next summer facing the unpredictability of free agency.
1. Russell Westbrook $26,540,100
2. Enes Kanter $17,145,838
3. Ersan Ilyasova $8,400,000
4. Victor Oladipo $6,552,960
5. Alex Abrines $5,994,764
6. Kyle Singler $4,837,500
7. Nick Collison $3,750,000
8. Anthony Morrow $3,488,000
9. Steven Adams $3,140,518
10. Ronnie Price $2,557,545
11. Domantas Sabonis $2,440,200
12. Andre Roberson $2,183,072
13. Cameron Payne $2,112,480
14. Mitch McGary $1,526,040
15. Josh Huestis $1,191,480
16. Joffrey Lauvergne $1,709,719
17. Semaj Christon $543,471
Salary table 2016
Guaranteed salaries $92,915,357
Dead money $0
Tax variance $95,376 over
Free-agent cap holds $0
Incomplete roster charge $0
Salaries: cap $94,122,687
Salaries: tax $94,027,311
Salary cap $94,143,000
Luxury tax $113,287,000
Cap space $20,313
Tax room $19,259,689
Durant’s free-agent decision dictated Oklahoma City’s flexibility this summer.
Had Durant returned, Oklahoma City would have been over the cap with the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions to use in free agency.
With Durant gone, the Thunder used a portion of available cap space to sign former second-round pick Alex Abrines, renegotiate Westbrook’s contract, sign free agent Ronnie Price and acquire Joffrey Lauvergne from the Nuggets.
Free agents signed in the offseason cannot be traded until either Dec. 15, Jan. 15 or for three months if they signed after Sept. 15.
Price cannot be traded until Dec. 15; Westbrook cannot be traded until Feb. 4.
Players who renegotiate or extend their contracts must wait six months before being eligible to be traded.
Westbrook and Enes Kanter also have 15 percent trade bonuses in their contract.
However, because Westbrook’s salary is the maximum allowed, the bonus would be voided if he were traded this season.
The current value of the Kanter bonus is $5.2 million.
Oklahoma City has a league-leading three players eligible for a rookie extensions.
Oladipo, Steven Adams and Andre Roberson are in the final years of their rookie deals and can be extended until Oct. 31.
The Thunder in past years have been aggressive in extension talks with former first-round picks (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka), but future cap flexibility could have Oklahoma City taking a wait-and-see approach until next summer.
Starter Bench Bench
PG Russell Westbrook Cameron Payne Ronnie Price/Semaj Christon
SG Victor Oladipo Anthony Morrow Alex Abrines
SF Andre Roberson Kyle Singler
PF Ersan Ilyasova N. Collison/D. Sabonis J. Lauvergne/J. Heustis
C Steve Adams Enes Kanter Mitch McGary
Oklahoma City has 15 guaranteed contracts and two players with partial guarantees, former second-round pick Semaj Christon and Lauvergne.
With 2014 first-round pick Mitch McGary serving a 15-game suspension, the former Michigan power forward could be the odd man out.
SNEAK PEEK TO NEXT SUMMER
Although the Thunder have $61 million in guaranteed contracts next summer, the rookie cap holds of Adams, Oladipo and Andre Roberson will push Oklahoma City over the cap.
In order for Oklahoma City to create room for July, the Thunder will need to bypass extension talks with all three players this summer and look to move the $17.8 million salary of Enes Kanter.
KEEP AN EYE ON
The final roster spot
The late August addition of Joffrey Lauvergne means the Thunder’s roster will not be set when training camp starts in late September.
With McGary battling injuries the past two seasons and facing a 15-game suspension to start the season and Josh Huestis coming off a sluggish summer league, the final roster spots aren’t guaranteed.
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