Tick, tock, tick, tock….that’s the sound running through Sam Presti’s head right now. Even though Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook were able to come to agreement on a three-year contract extension. Westbrook’s extension has a player option after year two (17-18 season) and officially put the Thunder on the clock. Presti and Oklahoma City are under pressure to put a contender together in two years to avoid Westbrook leaving like Kevin Durant did this summer.
The extension is a win for the Thunder as they are able to keep Westbrook and avoid completely falling off the map. They really staved off doomsday for another two years and have to field a team that will make Westbrook stay. Presti will have to work some magic, as the Thunder’s assets cupboard is quite bare. Reports have it that the front office is a huge fan of Steven Adams and he will not be on the trade bloc. That really leaves Enes Kanter as the only real trade option they have but the market will not yelled a huge return for him.
The only real chance for the Thunder will be looking to add a free agent next summer. The 2017 NBA free agent class will have a number of stars available and the Thunder might lock in on luring away Blake Griffin from the LA Clippers back home to Oklahoma City. Besides Griffin another option would be to make a run a Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz to pair up another young wing star with the Westbrook. The Atlanta Hawks Paul Millsap is another free agent that might be good fit with Westbrook. These are the best options the Thunder has to try to improve barring a random trade occurring.
The last option for the Thunder with the Westbrook extension is it will improve any trade offers they are likely to receive should their season turn sour early. Teams are willing to give up more to acquire players they know they can keep for a year and a half instead of renting a potential free agent for half a season. If things go bad this season, at the trade deadline the Thunder can try to move Westbrook for a king’s ransom.
The extension is also a win for Westbrook, for the first time in his career he is the best player on his team. Many stories are coming out about how loyal Westbrook is being by committing to the Thunder. Although the loyalty angle is a nice narrative, the truth is this is a GREAT business decision for Westbrook for a few reasons.
The first is this extension will give Westbrook nine million more dollars to be the star of the team. The second, Westbrook’s player option will be at the end of his tenth season in the NBA. That is an important distinction because under the current the Collective Bargaining Agreement, players with 10 years of service are eligible to sign with a team for 35% of the salary cap instead of 30% for players that have less than 10 years of service. The final reason is that there is an impending lockout coming and there are no clear ideas as to what the new rules will look like under the new agreement. This deal will allow him to survey the landscape of the new deal and go forward from there.
This extension is a win-win for both parties involved but a larger win for Westbrook than the Thunder. In the long run he’ll make more money because of this extension. The Thunder on the other hand has bought some time and a few more options to build a contender around him or they will lose him. The clock has begun running for Presti and the Thunder; their next few moves will be critical. Tick….Tock…Tick….Tock.