NBA Roundtable

2010 Cap Space: Oklahoma

In Free Agency, General NBA, Trade Talk on November 28, 2009 at 7:00 am

Updated Version — click here

Oklahoma City Thunder Salaries

Contracts above $5 million

  • Nick Collison – $6.75 million
  • Kevin Durant – $6.05 million
  • Nenad Krstic – $5.43 million

All three players are entering the final year of their respective contracts.

They combine to make $18.23 million.

Rest Of Team’s Salaries

  • Jeff Green – $4.46 million
  • James Harden – $4.3 million
  • Russell Westbrook – $4.02 million
  • Thabo Sefolosha – $2.98 million
  • BJ Mullens – $1.2 million
  • Serge Ibaka – $1.2 million
  • DJ White – $1.11 million

All of the above players (seven) are on rookie scale contracts except for Thabo Sefolosha who will just be beginning a new contract extension. Jeff Green will be the entering the final year of his rookie deal, while Westbrook + White enter the third seasons of their contracts. The rest will be starting their sophomore campaigns.

Those contracts amount to $19.27 million and take the Thunder’s total up to $37.5 million.

Other Costs

  • Draft Picks — Oklahoma look likely to finish with a low lottery pick (just outside playoffs). That would come with a cap hold of $1.47-to-$1.63 million.
    • If the Thunder manage to claim one of the West’s final playoff seeds then they could finish a couple of spots higher due to the East’s weak final playoff spots (Win/loss wise). But I’ll hold off on that for now. If Oklahoma looks likely to win this spot around mid-season then I’ll come back and adjust the numbers accordingly then (only a couple hundred thousand anyway, won’t change much).
  • Draft Picks — The Thunder also own the Phoenix Suns’ first round draft choice. The Suns have gotten off to a fast start but are likely to fizzle down over the coming months. I reckon they’ll be in the #19-22 range on draft day which will come with a cap hold of $1.02-to-$1.14 million.
  • Non-Guaranteed Contracts — Kyle Weaver has a non-guaranteed salary of $940k for next season. The contract becomes guaranteed if he’s not waived prior to the 1st August.
  • Open Roster Spots — Oklahoma will have ten contracts + two first round draft picks + possibly/likely Kyle Weaver. There is no additional cap charge here for open roster spots regardless of the Weaver decision.

The additional costs here amount to $3.43-to-$3.72 million.

That gives us a new total of $40.93-to-$41.22 million.

The Cap

The league sent out a memo at the beginning of free agency this year citing these numbers as possible cap figures for 2010

The NBA’s ballyhooed free-agent summer of 2010 might have quietly taken another hit late Tuesday night.

In a memo announcing next season’s salary cap and luxury-tax threshold, sent out shortly before the league’s annual July moratorium on signings and trades was lifted at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, NBA teams also received tentative projections from the league warning that the cap is estimated to drop to somewhere between $50.4 million and $53.6 million for the 2010-11 season.

2010 Cap Space

So, the Oklahoma City Thunder will have $9.18-to-$12.67 million in cap space next summer.

Oklahoma’s Free Agency Options

The major issue here for Oklahoma is the cost of re-signing their own players down the road.

  • Kevin Durant will be due a maximum contract in 12 months time which will cost 25% of the cap. Say $13-14 million.
  • Jeff Green will also be up for a new contract and he looks a good bet for at least $8 million per annum + a good chance of earning $10-11 million per year.
  • Russell Westbrook is continually improving and is worth $10 million per annum already. There’s a fair chance he’ll be a max contract or a near-max contract in two years time.
  • So we’re looking at an initial estimate of $35 million between the three of them as starting salaries. With maximum raises of 10.5% annually. That’s with two of them starting new contracts in a year’s time, and the other one the year after that.

Oklahoma does have some other positives here cap wise

  • Nenad Krstic and Nick Collison are expiring contracts. That’s almost $13 million in available funds. Almost enough to pay for Durant’s first year salary.
  • They’ve signed Thabo Sefolosha to an extremely good contract (one of the best in the league) at $3-4 million per season.
  • Oklahoma also has a bunch of young players on rookie salaries which will ease the salary burden over the first 2-3 years … but they also have one other high lottery pick in James Harden who may be worth substantial money down the road too.

Okay, walking in circles here … re-group.

Oklahoma doesn’t have much cap space. They need to keep a good deal of their cap flexibility open for their young players or else discard one their top three players in order to pay for another big contract.

The Thunder could easily fit another $10 million contract into their payroll, both today and down the road. A $15 million contract would squeeze things a bit but would be manage-able. A contract that gets to $20 million a year could make things very complicated down the road (unless ownership is willing to pay luxury taxes of course) and will likely be avoided.

My best guess on Oklahoma’s future plans is:

  • Option One — Sign a $10 million a year big man who can be the club’s defensive anchor and leading rebounder. If he has an offensive game that’s a bonus.
  • Option Two — Be willing to move Jeff Green in order to make room for another max contract (sign and trade?) alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and make a Big Three in the process.

I think these are the top two options that Oklahoma’s management is strongly considering. I’m thinking they’re leaning towards the first but are inclined to investigate the second and are truly willing to go down that route if a good enough option is available to them.

Personally, I think the second option is their best move and will disappointed if they pass on it.

  1. It’s hard to give up on your own guys.

    Best option is to sign a big name FA and go way into LT territory like the Lakers – but that’s not going to happen.

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