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State of the Cap: Oklahoma City Thunder

Wed, 06/02/2010 - 2:54pm

By Mike Misek

2010/11 Oklahoma City Thunder Payroll: $40.3 million
2010/11 NBA Salary Cap: $56.1 million
Roughly: $15.8 million under cap


Kevin DurantKevin DurantVariables:

Etan Thomas - Unrestricted Free Agent
Earl Watson - Unrestricted Free Agent
Kevin Ollie - Unrestricted Free Agent
Nenad Krstic - Player Option for $5.8 million
Mustafa Shakur - Qualifying Offer for $1.0 million

Draft Picks - 21st pick, 26th pick, 32nd pick, and 51st pick

The Good: Right now, the Thunder are considered “THE” up-and-coming team of the future. With Kevin Durant, they should be. He is quickly proving that he is good enough to be the best player on a championship contending team. Their improvement from 2009 to 2010 reflects his development from a good young player to a superstar. The team also has a budding young star at the point guard position with Russell Westbrook who the team has under contract for another 3 seasons at just 5 million per. This team has just 40 million in payroll and no glaring salaries. The team also features two excellent complimetary pieces with Jeff Green and James Harden, who are also in their rookie contracts. OKC also has youngsters Serge Ibaka and Eric Maynor under contract for the next 4 years and both appear to be quickly developing into solid contributors at the NBA level. With their core players still extremely young, they were able to put a scare into the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. They could be primed to make another jump next season into true contender territory.

The Bad: When your worst contracts are Nick Collison at 6.7 million and Nenad Krstic at 5.8 million, there isn't a whole lot to be upset about. 5 points and 5 rebounds is not nearly enough for a player making nearly 7 million, granted Collison is a toughnosed polayer and quality clubhouse influence. Their starting center, Krstic has not been what the team had hoped when they signed him as a free agent out of Europe coming off a leg injury. The team’s front court is really mediocre, as the Lakers exposed late in their series. Jeff Green is a nice piece, but not built to anchor a front line. Nenad Krstic and Nick Collison are the only real burdens on their salary cap and both are in need of upgrades as they are borderline rotation players. The good news is that both are entering the final years of their contracts.

The other spurious variable in the mix as to whether Oklahoma City decides to make a major move is finances. Part of the reason the Thunder organization has been so patient in building with young players is that Clay Bennett and his investors paid $45 million to the City of Seattle to move the franchise. Not only that, but they paid $350 million for a Seattle franchise now appraised by Forbes to be worth $310 million in part because of the smaller market. The organization has a superstar, great enthusiastic fans, a relatively new arena, and a low payroll. They also appear to have some financial worries because the owners incurred great cost to bring the team where they are and now want to recoup some of those losses. It is not something any front office figure would go public with, but the alleged $400 million losses the NBA is claiming is not due to fan interest or gate receipts. It is from owners who bought in over the past ten years doing so in an inflated market. Bennett not only bought the team at a high price, but he went from Seattle to Oklahoma City with his purchase. This is not an issue that should be ignored. A stagnated economy where capital assets are depreciating in value, $45 million to leave Seattle, and playing in a smaller market might have some meaning in the franchise’s big picture.

The team could stay the course and balance the bank book while the roster is still on the rookie scale. Few people would criticize that decision, but no superstar has been able to win a title without a quality, experienced supporting cast.

The Future: This team has a bright future with lots of cap space, and a roster filled with young, developing talent. The team's finances, however, may keep it from being able to make the necessary moves to capitalize on their tremendous young nucleus. The team must decide how aggressive it wants to be about contending for titles before their young stars reach their second contracts, and their core demands more money. If they can bring in some experienced veterens with contracts that run up in time for them to extend their superstars, everything should work out. As of July 1, they will only have three players on their roster who will not be in their rookie deals, and only Thabo Sefolosha will be signed beyond 2010-11. Such a dynamic gives them a surplus of young players who would be attractive to rebuilding teams if they choose to deal quantity for quality.

Grade: A

kanebanger
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fun team to watch

fun team to watch

chibulls88
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Should have stayed in Seattle

Should have stayed in Seattle

Mr. 19134
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They probably should have

They probably should have stayed in Seattle but at the same time fans in Seattle should of been attending games. The most puzzling case of this is when the Hornets left Charlotte because there wasn't anybody coming to the games and then 2 years later they get an expansion team in Charlotte...hold up didnt we just deem that city unworthy of a franchise two years ago due to lack of interest? Man I wish the sixers would move somewhere else so we can get an expansion team, hire Bill Simmons as our GM and let him use his draft and trade machines to make us instant contenders

bucksfan74
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What's gonna happen when

What's gonna happen when Durant & Westbrook command max contracts? Not to mention that Green & Harden will also be getting BIG paydays when their rookie deals are done. Krstic will also command 6 or 7 mil a season - which is average $$$ for an average 7 footer. Plus, they have two 1st round picks this year - which will be guaranteed contracts. I see them trading Green and/or Harden in the next year or two.

I just don't see the rosy future for this team.

It still makes me sick that this team is not in Seattle.

Mr.Creative
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Thunder

They have a healthy salary cap coming into the new season. Thunder was definitely "THE" up-and-coming team. Fun, new faces and they have a promising roster being led by Durant. Thunder has enough cap room to pick up some veteran big men to address their mediocre front court. Having four draft picks, Thunder can move up the draft by trading them or making a package to pick up another player. The Thunder is definitely developing into a true contender.

ross
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If it ain't broke don't fix it ...

Cardinal Rule: If it ain't broke, don't fix it ...

Continue to build through the draft and provide ample playing time for young players to develop. Westbrook, Durant, Harden, Green, Ibaka, Maynor is a solid core that should take another jump in production after another year of experience and learning what it takes to win.

Jerome Jordan would be another great pickup. A 7-foot Center that has 4 years of collegiate experience and still has a lot of upside due to beginning to play organized basketball late.

Last year's first rounder BJ Mullens hopefully will be ready to begin to contribute next season after a year down in the D-League. He is definitely talented and would be a huge upgrade over the slothful Kristic.

PurpleMonkeyDis...
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Thunder

This idea goes against how OKC rebuilt, but with the Thunders cap space they could buy Biedrin from the Warrior..,. it has risk for both teams.
4 yrs and and just over 30 million for the Thunder and the Warriors lose a solid ctr for nothing but cap relief. He could be a solid player for The Thunder, and they wouldn't have to run any plays for him, just let him block shots and rebound the ball.

piratejp
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move up or FA possibilities

They could move up and go after Favors, Monroe or Cousins, any of whom would be a good fit. There is a deep draft & there will be some nice players still on the board in the late first, maybe enticing someone to move back for multiple picks.

Some GM who is good at evaluating talent could strike gold there (21 & 26) - or bring in multiple complementary players at least - making it worth passing on the high pick and allowing the Thunder to move up. The Thunder might have to throw in a future pick in addition to the 2 first rounders this year to make it happen though - depending on how high up they need to move.

If they don't do that, going after Boozer, Bosch, Stoudamire or Lee would make a lot of sense & then bring Green off the bench. He'd be perfect in that role & great playing alongside any of those guys when they need to go small.

A lot of promise, but they still need another big man & more experience. If they're smart, they could be playing for a title in 3 years, assuming their finances allow it.

PurpleMonkeyDis...
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Bucks74

So the Thunders problem is they have too many good players..... is that your point?. Your thought process is confusing at best.

piratejp
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clarify

I edited to make it more clear, but my overriding point is they need another big man if they want to be serious contenders - especially considering the paydays they're going to have to dole out in a few years here. Given the lay of the land, I think these are their best two options for doing so right away.

The draft option better fits their style and finances, but going after a veteran might be worth it if they think it moves the timetable for competing up a year or two. Hope that clarifies it for you.

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