Jan 19, 2012, 1:31 PM EDT
The Oklahoma City Thunder have some hard choices coming in the next few years as they try to keep this core together — but Russell Westbrook just made that a little bit easier.
Westbrook has reached a max extension deal with the Thunder, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.
All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook has signed a five-year, $80 million contract extension with the Oklahoma, league sources told Yahoo! Sports….
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, Westbrook could’ve been eligible for a maximum deal worth 30 percent of the Thunder’s salary cap next season. To do so, he needed to satisfy requirements that included him being named to the All-NBA team twice in four years. Nevertheless, Westbrook gets an extension that pays him 25 percent of the Thunder’s cap and preserves space that allows the franchise to construct future deals for James Harden and Serge Ibaka.
That last part is key — Westbrook could have gotten a “Derrick Rose” rule deal (if he makes the All-Star Game again this season), which is what the Thunder modified Kevin Durant’s deal to be. It would mean more money in Westbook’s pocket (about $15 million total over five years), but would also means 60 percent of the Thunder’s cap space would be tied up in two players and keeping guys like Harden would have been difficult.
The Yahoo report says Westbrook did not get that kind of deal, he got the 25 percent of the salary cap deal he can sign now. If he does not get a bump up to a Rose rule size contract — and it appears he is not — this is a great deal for the Thunder.
They apparently sold him on this as a way to keep the core of this contending team together and he accepted the sacrifice. It still will not be easy — Harden in particular is coveted by other teams and he could see tempting offers — but now the Thunder stand a better chance. OKC hopes to sign Harden to a deal around $11-12 million a year. They already have Kendrick Perkins at $9 million plus, and there is Serge Ibaka who will need an extension.
How much the small market Thunder owners are willing to spend and pay in luxury tax (especially after the more onerous provisions kick in after a couple years) remains to be seen.
Bottom line, the Thunder now have Westbrook and Durant locked up. With that they are going to be very good for the next five years, regardless.
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