NBA Roundtable

2009 Cap Space: Oklahoma

In Free Agency, General NBA on March 19, 2009 at 8:56 am

Oklahoma City Thunder Salaries

Let’s start off by looking at who is currently on the Thunder’s books for next season.

Here are the contracts over five million dollars

  • Nick Collison — $6.35mil
  • Earl Watson – $6.6mil
  • Nenad Krstic – $5.16mil

That totals $18.11 million spread across three players. Both Collison and Watson are entering the final year of their contracts, while Krstic has two more years on his deal.

Now let’s have a look at the rest of their contracts

  • Kevin Durant — $4.8mil
  • Russell Westbrook — $3.75mil
  • Jeff Green — $3.52mil
  • Thabo Sefolosha –$2.76mil
  • DJ White — $1.04mil
  • Kyle Weaver — $870k

These contracts add up a little over $16.75 million spread across six players, all of whom have been recent draft picks. Five of those picks have been in the first round, and four of those players are the team’s core. Thabo will be entering the final year of his rookie contract, but the other’s are on the books for longer.

That brings the Thunder’s total up to $34.85mil for nine players.

Other costs

  • 2009 Lottery pick — The Thunder have the third selection in the NBA draft, that comes with a cap hold of $3.34 million.
  • 2009 First Rounder — The Thunder are also owed another draft pick, the #25 pick, which comes with a cap hold of $900k.
  • Chucky Atkins has a non guaranteed deal worth $3.5 million. The Thunder will almost certainly waive him in order to save a few bucks, and to create more cap room. If they do so, they’ll be on the hook for only $760k of that $3.5mil.
  • Damien Wilkins has an early termination clause this summer. So he can opt out of his contract if he wishes. However, it would surprise me because I don’t think he’d make more money in the open market than he’s earning now. He’s due $3.3 million.
  • After they buyout Atkins, the Thunder will be left with 12 used roster spots, so no cap charge.

Okay, so we have four costs — lottery pick, other first round pick, Damien Wilkins, Atkins buyout — which add up to $8.3 million.

When we add that to our previous total, we arrive at a new total of $43.15 million.

The Cap

We don’t know where the cap will end up being.

  • If it holds steady, it’ll be at $58mil.
  • If it increases it could go up to $60mil but that is the most unlikely of the three possibilities.
  • If it decreases, then the cap could fall to say $56mil which is a figure which has been mentioned in some press stories. This is the most likely event, but holding steady is also a strong possibility.

Thunder’s Cap Space

At a $58 million cap, the Thunder will have $14.85 million to spend.

At a $56 million cap, the Thunder would have $12.85 million to spend.

Thunder’s Free Agent Targets

It’s extremely difficult to say what the Thunder’s intentions are without knowing who they draft with that lottery pick. For example, say they manage to get Blake Griffin, that will likely take them out of the market for a power forward.

Okay, so what do we know?

  • Franchise player at small forward with Kevin Durant
  • Point guard spot is locked down with Russell Westbrook
  • The power forward spot, may be, locked up long term with Jeff Green. It appears it is the Thunder’s intention to keep him there, but I do wonder how committed they are to that idea.
  • Their lottery pick will likely seal up another area — most likely either the wing, or a big man.

The Thunder’s core’s ages are — 20 years old, 20 years old, 22 years old and 24 years old. Sam Presti will seek players who are entering their prime, or even younger, so that his big money signings can grow with the team.

When we look at potential free agents who are young enough to interest the Thunder, we come up with this list:

  • Paul Millsap, David Lee, Anderson Varejao, Trevor Ariza, Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions, Drew Gooden, Raymond Felton, Marvin Williams, Linas Kleiza.
  • Carlos Boozer is 28 near the start of next season (November). It’s unclear whether he’d be too old for Presti or not, but I think that he likely is.
  • Here’s the 2009 Free Agent List — perhaps there is someone there that I missed, someone who should be added to this list.

So do any names on that list pop out as possibilities for Oklahoma City?

  • I don’t see Presti signing any of the guards — Sessions, Felton, Gordon.
  • I can see Presti being interested in the three big men — Millsap, Varejao and Lee — but probably not Drew Gooden.
    • Whether Presti makes a run at Millsap will be a big vote, or no vote, of confidence in Jeff Green’s ability to play power forward.
    • I can see Presti being interested in Lee but only at the right price, and I would expect Presti to be uncomfortable with Lee’s defense at center which could kill a possible deal.
    • Varejao seems the most likely fit for the Thunder. A big man capable of playing either power forward, or center, full time who’ll come on a contract close to the (above the) MLE and someone who is still relatively young while possessing great experience. He’s also the defensive first, rebounding second, type of player that Presti has admired in the past.
  • As for the wings — I would be surprised if Presti was interested in any of those players. Marvin Williams or Ariza, as the club’s 6th man, would seem the best fits but I doubt Presti is prepared to pay either player at this stage.

Is it possible Oklahoma City keep their money?


This isn’t the strongest free agent class, and most of the best talent available is quite old and doesn’t fit the Thunder’s specifications.

The talent that is in their ball park holds some appeal, but most of them wouldn’t be top targets.

The Thunder also have another $13 million coming off their books in 2010, ramping their cap space up $26-28 million for that summer. Keeping that money available could make them a major player in 2010.

Most likely free agent scenario?

I can see Sam Presti going after Varejao strongly and trying to get him on board on a reasonable contract. Then keep the rest, nearly all of it, of his money for 2010.

Any other options?

Yes, and this is the most likely option if the money is to be spent — that it is spent not through free agency, but from a trade — similar to the Camby deal last summer except for a younger player.

Sam Presti has already shown intent with the Tyson Chandler deal, so I expect him to be aggressive in the trade market this summer … and willing to take back big contracts.

How well are the Thunder positioned to become a legitimate Contender in the future?

Very well

It’s a big summer for Sam Presti, one which tell us quite a lot about himself.

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