The Thunder Conundrum

by A.J. Coltrane

First James Harden wouldn’t take a steep discount to stay in OKC. So OKC downgraded to Kevin Martin. Now Martin has decided not to stay at a discounted rate either, opting to sign with Minnesota(!) instead. As a Plan “C” the Thunder then pursued free agent and super long wing guy Dorrell Wright, but he signed with Portland for 2 years and $6 million, total. Now, they’re basically out of answers.

OKC can’t, or won’t, make room under the salary cap for a 20-minute per game decent rotation player in Wright. The Thunder could amnesty (waive) Kendrick Perkins’ ~$9 million in an attempt to create cap space for guys like Martin and Wright — but they won’t because they’d still have to pay Perkins *not* to play for them, and the ownership group has made it clear that they’re not going to shell out funds beyond the standard salary cap. They’re stuck with Perkins two more years.

The upshot is that the Thunder are going to have to rely on 21 year-old Jeremy Lamb to play some important playoff minutes. Lamb played mostly in the D-League last year, and he only saw 147 minutes of action at the NBA level. Is he ready to contribute to a championship contender? The word is, he’s looked good in the D-League, but I’d say being a key cog for OKC is likely a stretch.

The interesting part of this to me is that nobody has been willing to sign with OKC for a discount, even though they’re a championship contender. LA? Sure. Houston? Ok. Miami? You bet! Usually championship contention will buy you veterans looking for a ring at a cheap price. Not in this case. There’s not much help coming from the roster, either. Many fringe championship teams will draft experienced college guys who can contribute right away. See:  Spurs – DeJaun Blair, and, Celtics – Big Baby Davis. The Thunder have chosen to go with high upside raw prospects (Perry Jones III, D-Leager/benchwarmer). Their guys are not currently functional rotation players.

Remember all the articles that talked about how the Thunder players were a tight-knit group, and that they’d hang out together and watch movies and such. You know why they did that? I’m betting it’s not because they really dug each other’s company. It’s because there’s nothing else to do in OKC! It’s movie night every night! And again. And again! I wonder if Durant’s new wife is into movie night, or if they’re going to start doing “couples stuff” instead. Maybe she’ll finally be the one to “break up the band”, if it hasn’t already broken up.

And This:  Durant now has Jay-Z as an agent. Jay-Z also owns part of the Nets. Is there any chance that Jay-Z is trying to sell Durant on Brooklyn? I think Durant’s wife would prefer Brooklyn. I think any potential “I want to try to win a ring” veterans would prefer Brooklyn. I think the ridiculously weathly owner in Brooklyn will spend around the edges for those types of spare parts. Brooklyn has Garnett and Pierce, but they’ll be retiring, and taking their salaries with them at about the time that Durant comes onto the market. Durant would instantly become A Legend in Brooklyn.

I have no idea how irritated I’d be right now if this franchise was still here.

Actually, I do. I’d be livid.

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A couple of not unrelated posts.

5 comments to The Thunder Conundrum

  • Annie S.

    Yes, Coltrane I totally agree. I would be pissed if they were here and so close and the ownership was not more willing spend to get the championship.

  • Annie S.

    A quote from one of my favorite movies “Please get out of my Van Halen t-shirt before you jinx the band and they break up.” It’s not exactly Yoko, but I will take it if it means the band in OKC breaks up.

  • A.J. Coltrane

    From this SI/USA basketball piece:

    “It certainly left you wondering when the 24-year-old, when asked to assess his team’s business to date in July, offered nothing more than “I love it” before walking away from the assembled press pack to bring the interview to a halt.”

    and

    “Yet it has to sting to hear the latest rumbles in circulation about [Mike] Miller — personally recruited by Durant to come to OKC after Miami let him go via the amnesty clause — choosing Memphis in part because Miller sees the Grizzlies as closer to getting to the Finals than the Thunder.”

    http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/9507645/nba-kevin-durant-summer-not-all-chills-thrills

  • A.J. Coltrane

    For those who want more of this:

    http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9520497/the-oklahoma-city-thunder-future-legacy-james-harden-trade

    “The Thunder will pay Andre Roberson, the 26th pick in the draft, only 80 percent of his rookie scale amount, an alleged cheapskate move that will save them about $185,000 this season — at least when compared with the full scale amount.”

    “Most teams pay first-round picks 120 percent of the scale amount as a custom, though as Mark Deeks of the indispensable ShamSports.com has noted, the Spurs, Grizzlies, Bulls, and others have tried in recent years to force their picks to swallow lower salaries.”

    and

    “…But a third max salary for Harden, atop Serge Ibaka’s big new deal, would have been too much to swallow regardless. This is why the Thunder tried, in the high-pressure hours before the Harden deal, to re-sign Harden to something like a four-year, $52 million contract — a deal below the max, and one that would have paid Harden $11.5 million in Year 1 and $12.5 million in Year 2. People laughed at the small difference between that kind of contract and the four-year, $60 million deal Harden actually wanted, but the difference absolutely mattered. Every dollar matters for Oklahoma City.

    This is a team that makes about $15 million from its local television deal; the Lakers make $250 million per year from theirs. The Thunder just lowballed Roberson in order to make sure they duck the tax this season and delay the repeater clock one more time. Oklahoma City paid into the league’s revenue-sharing system last season instead of getting a boost from it, according to several sources with knowledge of the plan.”

  • Lloyd D.

    I am so glad this ownership does not own a team I root for.

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