And there’s one.
Serge Ibaka and the Thunder have agreed to a multi-year deal, the team announced Saturday. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, it’s for four years, $48 million.
“We are very excited that Serge will continue as a core member of the Thunder for years to come,” said Sam Presti in a release. “His passion for our organization, our community and for continuing to build on the foundation that he and his teammates have established was pivotal to making this possible. Serge personifies many of the traits that we value as an organization; he is a tireless and disciplined worker, an elite competitor and someone who treats his profession with the utmost focus, which in addition to his character, will all be integral to his continued improvement.”
I know what you’re thinking though. Well, is the deal good? Or bad?
I’d say pretty darn good. First of all, Serge Ibaka is locked up to a four-year extension. There’s nothing bad about that. But in terms of the other impacts it has, vis-a-vis James Harden, let’s see. What a lot were tossing around for Ibaka’s value, $12 million per year for a 22-year-old that happens to be the top shot blocker in basketball is excellent. Especially when a lot felt if he reached restricted free agency he’d be a maximum level player.
Consider some of the numbers that were tossed around this summer to players. Roy Hibbert and Brook Lopez got max deals. JaVale McGee signed for four years, $44 million. Kris Humphries got two years, $24 million. DeAndre Jordan signed last summer for four years, $43 million. Other top power forwards: LaMarcus Aldridge (five years, $65 million), Kevin Love (four years, $63 million), Blake Griffin (five years, $80 million), David Lee (six years, $80 million), Josh Smith (five years, $58 million), Chris Bosh (six years, $110 million).
In terms of market value, it seems to me that OKC came out looking pretty good on the numbers here.
Does it leave room for a Harden extension too? Sure does, but as we all knew, it’s going to be tight. And expensive. I wrote about the scenario at length here, and while it’s going to take some creative accounting and maybe even still an amnestying of Kendrick Perkins, the door is open.
Part of this could be determined by the structure of Ibaka’s deal, but just for our sake, let’s use $12 million per year. Next season, obviously the Thunder are fine. When it gets complicated is 2013-14, where with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, OKC has about $46 million committed and $65 million overall. Assuming OKC can sign Harden for around a similar figure as to what Ibaka got, the Thunder would be over the luxury tax threshold, with still four roster spots needing filling.
What gets them under, just by a hair though? Amnestying Perk. So yeah, that options could still be on the table. As well as this one: The Thunder might just be fine paying the tax for a couple years. As I’ve said all along, it’s not as unreasonable as you might think. Yes, Perk has a lot more value right now because of Dwight Howard. But there’s a reason the Thunder have been stockpiling project bigs for the past few years (Cole Aldrich, Hasheem Thabeet, Daniel Orton, Latavious Williams, Tibor Pleiss). Hopefully one of them works out.
The tax situation is difficult to swallow, but not impossible. By all accounts within the organization, Harden is a player that is extremely valued, so you can be sure they are considering all options in order to retain him. Because of that, it was of my opinion that Harden would be the focus this offseason, so the fact that Ibaka was the first domino to fall is a good sign. If it were Harden’s extension today, I would be wondering if Ibaka’s days were numbered in OKC. But with Harden, I just have a hard time believing they’re going to let him get away.
Already people on Twitter are acting as if Sam Presti has made his decision and chose Ibaka over Harden. But that’s not the case at all. They’re still working on that extension too. It might not happen this summer. He might go to restricted free agency. Or he might take less to try his best to make this work out.
But if you think for one second that Sam Presti and his staff don’t have this thing completely mapped out The Wire-style with a big board with numbers and names all over it and don’t know exactly how Ibaka’s extension impacts keeping Harden, then you don’t know crap about Presti. They’re on this. It might be difficult and it might not work out, but they didn’t just throw their hands up and say “Ibaka it is!” and then delete Harden’s agent’s phone number from their contacts. This thing is ongoing. And it could happen sooner than later too.
What’s for sure is that the Thunder have a very good team in place for next season, and a core of Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka for the next five. With still the opportunity to add another key piece to that soon. Life’s good.