Ibaka’s Deal and the Future of the Thunder
By: Steve Rawnsley
The Thunder, after signing Serge Ibaka to a four year $48 million dollar contract are between $62 and $63 million in salary next year with, Durant, Perkins, Westbrook, Sefolosha, Collison, Ibaka, Perry Jones, Hasheem Thabeet. Do you notice a missing piece? That is eight players. I’ll give you a hint. The missing key piece played for Team USA in the Olympics. The missing piece, if you cannot figure it out, is James Harden.
With the new deal to Serge Ibaka, the Thunder might have made a choice on who is in their future plans. All of these great rookie contracts are expiring, and these players are starting to demand more money. Everybody knew this day was coming. This is why the Thunder have been relatively pretty quiet when it comes to trades, and signings. (Really besides acquiring Kendrick Perkins in a trade, what has been their biggest move in the Durant era?)
The tax threshold is at $70.3 million this year. This means any team paying more than that amount is paying the NBA luxuries. In general, the tax threshold usually goes up about 1 million a year, since it was introduced in the 2000-2001 season. Just hypothetically, let’s set the tax at $71 million. The Thunder will have about $8-9 million to sign their final 5 players, if they do not want to pay luxury taxes, and that is without James Harden.
Now, there is one way the Thunder can help themselves, and that is by using the amnesty clause the that was introduced after the lockout. They would use it on Kendrick Perkins who makes about $17.6 million the next two years. Now, they still have to pay him, if they amnesty him, but the purpose of amnestying someone is their contract comes off the books in terms of the cap. Even by amnestying Perkins, and resigning Harden, they will be pushed hard to stay under the luxury tax threshold. (For more information on the luxury tax system, go HERE)
Now, not only if you are over the luxury tax threshold do you pay taxes, but all of the taxes teams pay goes to the teams under the tax threshold. So in reality, it is a double wammy. Are the small market Thunder willing to make this sacrifice to keep this current core, or even just their core four, of Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, and Harden.
Expect to hear Harden’s name in a bunch of rumors. It will not be as bad as Dwightmare, but the Thunder are now facing the crossroads everybody knew they were going to face. The Thunder are going to have to make some very tough choices, and the first one has been made by resigning Ibaka. This is just the first domino to fall. The next domino to fall will be Harden. Where it falls, nobody knows.