The Thunder have already had a pretty successful offseason by default, but it could get a whole lot better. The future is in doubt in Oklahoma City with extensions for James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Eric Maynor on the to-do list. There’s potential to enter luxury tax hell and potentially a Sophie’s Choice coming for Sam Presti.
It’s not all over if extensions aren’t done this summer though. All that would mean is the player(s) would enter into restricted free agency next summer, which would sort of let the market determine value. But at the same time, you open the door to the possibility of a brash, deep-pocketed owner throwing big time dollars somewhere. So locking up sooner than later is preferred.
Both Harden and Maynor seemed to indicate sacrifices could be made to keep this thing together and I don’t doubt they’ll try. But we’ll have to wait and see. How likely are these things to get done? Or even one of them?
1. Scale of 1-10, how likely is it that James Harden will have an extension by the end of summer?
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: 9.5. I’m thoroughly convinced that Harden is the priority and if a choice truly did have to be made, he’d be the pick. Harden might very well be a max player — if Eric Gordon is, then Harden has to be, right? — but let him enter restricted free agency and he most assuredly will be. That may push Harden to not accepting anything less than a max extension from the Thunder, but if he’s truly willing to make a sacrifice, which I think he is, then he’ll ink this summer. And anything less than the max will be money Harden has cut the Thunder slack on.
Patrick James, Daily Thunder: 8. It’s not a slam dunk that Harden gets extended. He knows that he can get max money from someone next summer, barring a major regression. And if some of the wild numbers being thrown around to average players in this first post-lockout summer are any indication, he’ll get some major money even if he does regress. But it’s unlikely the Thunder really want to give him a full max deal, or even much more than other teams could give him next summer. And even though Harden has hinted he would take less money to stay, he wouldn’t be the first guy to say one thing and do another. Still, OKC knows Harden is a key to long-term competitiveness and has lots of motivation to do the deal. If he’s really willing to take a little bit less money, the chance has to be pretty good that he signs an extension by the deadline.
Clark Matthews, The Lost Ogle: 10. When Kevin Durant says he ain’t hitting the market, he ain’t hitting the market. Harden is in a cross road. He can certainly make Joe Johnson money if he wants to test the waters. The catch is that he will have a Joe Johnson career. In the end, I bet he prefers to go the Manu Ginobili route. Earn a little less, but still a lot, and be part of something bigger.
Young: 4. The Thunder will make a considerable offer to Ibaka, but I imagine it’ll be kindly rejected. When you see the money being tossed around towards marginal players like JaVale McGee (four years, $44 million), Ersan Ilyasova (five years, $45 million) and Omer Asik (three years, $25 million) it has to make you wonder what Ibaka will command on the open market. We’re talking the very top shotblocker in the game here, and one with a solid offensive game. He could stumble himself into a max, or something close to. Unless considerable sacrifices are made, it’s hard to imagine Ibaka inking for anything less than $10 million a year. There’s a feeling within the actual team that neither Harden or Ibaka are going anywhere and while I want to believe it, we’ll have to wait and see.
James: 5. The market for big men is just out of control right now, and with OKC likely to ask Ibaka for an even bigger hometown discount than they will ask Harden for, it’s unlikely Ibaka and his agents are going to be feeling very charitable. If Brook Lopez can get a max deal, then why can’t Ibaka at least break the $50 million mark on the open market? Even $50 million could be a low ball offer for a guy with Ibaka’s current skill and future potential. OKC surely isn’t willing to go there just yet. Ibaka seems like a good candidate for a matched offer sheet next summer if the Thunder aim to keep him, and a sign-and-trade next summer if they don’t.
Matthews: 3. I’ve never had a vibe that Serge is eager to take a home town discount. Don’t get me wrong, I think he truly loves playing for this team, but I also think he isn’t quite happy with his role.
3. Scale of 1-10, how likely is it that Eric Maynor will have an extension by the end of summer?
Young: 1. If offered a decent one, I think Maynor would sign it in a heartbeat. I’m not sure any of the three wants to be here as much as him. He’s willing to put being a starting point guard on hold, willing to take less and willing to compromise his role to stay with this team. But his future is much cloudier than the other two simply because a great backup point guard isn’t put at a premium.
James: 2. There can be entire draft classes with only about three guys who get extensions the year before they can become RFAs. Surely three guys on the same team won’t get them. Still, maybe Maynor is a good candidate to take a low ball-ish offer from the Thunder. Coming off an injury, maybe the extra security of getting a deal done now will be more important to him than potentially maximizing his value next summer.
Matthews: 6. I think he’s twice as likely (compared to Serge) to sign an extension because he’s in line to make about a third of the money Ibaka will command. If he doesn’t sign this Summer, it has more to do with him coming off of injury.