There’s a reason the Oklahoma City Thunder have not been mentioned among the teams in the hunt for the big free agent names out there like Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler.
It’s because the team simply has no money to spend.
According to Spotrac.com, Oklahoma’s projected practical cap space is negative-$39.7 million and the team is slated to pay more than $40 million in luxury tax bills.
The luxury tax gets progressively worse the more teams blow by the salary cap, and the Thunder are already paying a huge price for the league’s most expensive roster.
A large part of this is because of the contract of superstars Russell Westbrook and Paul George. The two take up just under 50% of the cap for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City has 11 players under contract for next season with an average age of 26.
Russell Westbrook’s Supermax With Thunder
Westbrook signed the a supermax extension with OKC in 2017, which was for five years and $206 million. His contract is the richest in league history.
“When you play in Oklahoma City you play in front of the best fans in the world, I’m looking forward to bringing everything I’ve got, for them, this city and for this organization. WHY NOT?” he said following the announcement of the deal.
Westbrook has been well worth the money. He’s has averaged a triple-double the last two seasons, winning the MVP in 2017. He’s also an eight-time All-Star, two-time scoring champion and two-time league assists leader.
Paul George’s Massive Deal with Oklahoma City
It came as a shock to some that George decided to stay in Oklahoma City rather than bolt for his hometown Lakers last offseason. He opted to stay with the Thunder on a four-year, $136 million deal. He is set to make $33 million this season.
“It’s more than just loyalty, it’s about doing what I think is right. I feel this is the best and perfect opportunity to cement myself and bring a championship where it hasn’t been brought,” George said after he signed the deal. “They’ve welcomed me with open arms, and I want them to feel that hype that I have toward what I think we can accomplish there.
Oklahoma City’s Possible Offseason Moves
Another one of the team’s top earners is center Steven Adams, who will make $25.8 million in the upcoming season. Adams has been solid, but has never made an All-Star team and takes up more than 17% of the cap for Oklahoma City. He’s been involved in trade rumors this offseason as the team tries to get creative in it’s roster construction while also trying to relieve some of the luxury tax bill.
Dennis Schröder will make $15.5 million next season and Andre Roberson is set to haul in $10.7 million after missing all of last season recovering from a torn patellar tendon in his left knee. Both could also be pieces the team tries to move.
Oklahoma City will be in the market for veterans willing to play for the minimum. Among the potential targets that meet that criteria are Joakim Noah, Garrett Temple, Isaiah Thomas and James Ennis III.
The team does a $10.8 million trade exception, which was created by the Carmelo Anthony deal. However, it expires on July 25 and it wouldn’t make the luxury tax situation any better if the team decided to use it.