It might sound impossible now, but over the next year the Oklahoma City Thunder will have to make some serious decisions regarding their cap situation. I'm not sure how many of you have followed the situations with Chesapeake Energy (who's CEO is a minority owner in Thunder and who's majority owner is a major investor in) have major financial issues, especially with cash flow.
Add to that, the Thunders small market, and the stiff new luxury tax coming in 2014, it's HIGHLY unlikely Westbrook, Harden, Durant and Ibaka are all on the team by 2014. The owners have hinted, they will not be paying the tax or become repeat offenders.
While they are on the verge of potentially winning an NBA title, it's not inconceivable for them to consider trading one in the offseason before Harden and Ibaka become restricted free agents.
First, let's analyze their cap situation entering 2013/14
Durant- 18.7 million
Westbrook- 17.5 million
Perkins- 8.5 million
Thabo- 3.9 million
Collison- 2.6 million
Aldrich- 3.2 mil (team option)
Jackson- 1.3 mil (team option
Hayward- 2.1 million (team option)
Harden- 7.5 million QUALIFYING OFFER
Ibaka- 3.3 million QUALIFYING OFFER
Assuming they pick up team options on rookie deals and not counting any other rookies they bring in this draft, they are committed to approximately 57.8 million.
Giving them less than 13 mil before they hit the tax. Ibaka at lowest will get 8 million, and is much more likely to get 10+ being a young productive big man. Harden, will approach max-money. There is no way they can keep both without paying the tax. So what are their options?
Obviously, Durant being traded is off the table. They won't trade their best player.
Which leaves 1 of the other 4 main players (perkins included). Assuming they don't draft a center who can replace Perkins on a rookie deal (I don't put it past presti), they won't give up their center. Next I believe, there is no way they won't resign Ibaka to an extension. He's vital to their defense. His offensive game is growing, and he's the youngest player on the team. His contract will be lowest dollar figure of there 4 youngest players and could easily appear a bargain. As hard as it would be, it comes down to Westbrook or Harden having to go.
Personally I don't think they'd trade Westbrook and certainly not until next summer. But if given the choice, perhaps they would take Curry and Jefferson or Biedrins for him. In Steph they get a PG who is still very good, but not going to command max money. He is likely to be around 8-11 mil, which would save them enough to stay out of the deep tax long term. This is still unlikely to happen, because OKC value Westbrook as a core piece. The second, and more likely option, which Marc Spears mentioned. Potentially trading Harden at a high, before he has to sign an extension this summer. He'll surely get a lot of money on the market next year. He's potentially lining up to be the best SG in NBA for the next decade. He's only 22 and improving daily. While it'd be undoubtedly a step back in the short term, OKC might like a Klay Thompson + #7 pick for Harden offer.
Sure SG isn't a need for us, and Klay can't do with Harden does for them, but it makes sense for both sides. We may not need a SG, but we do need top level talent. A Curry/Harden backcourt might be best in nba for a decade. Harden on any other team with more touches is a guaranteed all star. And he gets to line as good as anyone in NBA. For OKC, they lose talent, but they gain 2 rookie deals, which gives them the ability to stay under the tax.
My personal opinion? I would do either trade in a heart beat. Either backcourt combo, if we pulled it off, would be much more balanced than Curry/Klay backcourt. Both are long shots, but options which should be explored.
This team needs a talent upgrade. It needs toughness. It needs to know learn to win, and what better than young players who are already winning and display the right mentality. More than anything, our team is painfully plain, and needs some flavor. And who better than the NBA's two best dressers