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The Oklahoma City Thunder really want to avoid luxury tax

Jul 30, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

2013 NBA Draft Getty Images

When we say NBA rookies are on a “rookie scale contract” what really is going on is there is a salary level set for said player (amount based upon draft pick), and teams can offer between 80 percent and 120 percent of that number. Around the league, it’s a pretty standard for teams to give the rookie the 120 percent figure.

But the Thunder’s first round pick Andre Roberson was offered only 80 percent of the suggested salary.

Why? Because the Thunder desperately want to avoid paying the luxury tax this year, reports the Oklahoman.

So despite recent maneuvers that would suggest otherwise, Thunder management isn’t opposed to dipping into the tax. They’re just concerned about avoiding it this year.

Because starting next season and for the foreseeable future, with the escalating contracts of its star players, OKC is all but guaranteed to violate that threshold.

It’s not the tax money this year, it’s about the repeater tax (for teams consistently over the tax line, three of four years). For the Thunder three years from now, not being a repeater could save them $4 million off their tax bill. The Thunder are still a small market team trying to control their costs.

If you’re looking for the most obvious example of the Thunder’s cost cutting, there was the James Harden trade. That was all about saving money, particularly going into the long term when the small market Thunder couldn’t pay max deals to three guys,

Sucks a little for Roberson, though.

  1. deadeyedesign23 - Jul 30, 2013 at 8:41 AM

    Good thing they fought so hard for it.

  2. loungefly74 - Jul 30, 2013 at 8:43 AM

    cost cutting moves like that may lead to “close but no-cigar” seasons for the Thunder. makes me think they would have done much better if they were willing to spend the cash and keep Harden last year…but as a Laker fan, all i can do is shrug my shoulders…

  3. jackntorres - Jul 30, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    Should’ve kept Harden and bit the bullet. No two ways about it.

    • abchome - Jul 30, 2013 at 9:36 AM

      Feel sorry for the rookie, who couldn’t choose his nba employer. Yet he’s still making much much more than I do.

  4. sportsnut101 - Jul 30, 2013 at 9:17 AM

    Hey fans Easy to say when your not paying bill Dont u hate when ur wife over spends a few hundred dollars. Well imagine

    4 to 15 mill bill for a few yrs Durant Westbrook serge n harden would of beem 80 mill that’s just for 4 players. Roster is 15 so do the math people it wasn’t worth with for small market team

    People not upset about harden traded. They mad about what they got in return which was cap relief n no star in return Sam presti should be fried his moves have not worked.

    They traded green as well got perkins in return n over payed him we all wanna make him genius for durant Westbrook n harden draft pick but it’s because the team sucked to get early draft picks not cause of him

  5. bucrightoff - Jul 30, 2013 at 9:22 AM

    Isn’t this a ridiculously bad omen for this franchise? It has two of the 10 best players in the NBA, yet apparently makes so little money it can’t afford a little luxury tax to actually win a title? Do they not realize how much money a title can make them?

    Nevermind the vital question of how is this franchise going to survive when it doesn’t have 2 of the 10 best players in the NBA. Once they’re gone I’ll be very curious to see how long basketball survives in OKC. I don’t see a ton of fans showing up to support a team that will be fighting for a spot somewhere between 6 and 15.

    • fm31970 - Jul 30, 2013 at 10:20 AM

      Westbrook is Top Ten?!!? Stop it.

      As for the NBA Title making a team money (versus the entire league money via it’s NBA Properties arm), I’d love to see some figures backing that up. Not saying you’re wrong, but I’d love to see some evidence as to how winning a title puts lots of money directly into the team’s pockets.

    • asimonetti88 - Jul 30, 2013 at 10:59 AM

      I wonder if this cost-cutting would still be an issue if they were in a larger market, like say… Seattle?

      • stephenlin - Jul 30, 2013 at 12:47 PM

        i was thinking the same thing. considering the type of tech industry money that would be backing such a franchise in seattle, i think it would be less of an issue.

    • ryanrockzzz - Jul 30, 2013 at 11:56 AM

      OKC is just a small market team. I dont think there is anything wrong with what they are doing. They know they can’t operate like the Lakers or the Knicks, and honestly they are better for it. A team like Brooklyn is going to pay a ton in luxary tax this year, all so they can nab a 3-4 seed in the East and lose to the Heat/someone from the West.

      OKC can survive post Durant and Westbrook by drafting well, as they have done to establish the core of this team. The fan support may dwindle, but the payroll will probably always be kept comparable to the attendance/win total expectation.

    • youknowyouwanttotouchitdave - Jul 30, 2013 at 11:06 PM

      When the Hornets moved to OKC after hurricane Katrina in 05-06 they sold out crowds. That team only won 38 games and didn’t make the playoffs. The Thunder sold out games their first year when they only won 23 games. OKC basketball will always receive a lot of support because there is nothing else to do in Oklahoma.

  6. legend30 - Jul 30, 2013 at 10:07 AM

    How hard is it to amnesty K. Perkins?

    • jcmeyer10 - Jul 30, 2013 at 11:59 AM

      They still have to pay him and someone else. I reckon paying Perk and Roberson isn’t exactly running up the tab but still.

      OKC owners seem super cheap.

  7. patfic15 - Jul 30, 2013 at 10:39 AM

    Its painful to watch OKC be so complacent. 2nd round? Maybe. Great job to the owners over there for ruining what could have been a dynasty ….

    • 00maltliquor - Jul 30, 2013 at 12:47 PM

      Real talk. Could have been a dynasty for sure. Now I’m wondering if Durant will ever win a ring in Oklahoma City.

  8. jjthesportsguy - Jul 30, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    I bet the Seattle market could have afforded Durant, Westbrook, Harden, and whoever else they were able to get via trade exceptions, trades, or exception.

    • jcmeyer10 - Jul 30, 2013 at 1:10 PM

      Certainly one of the many elephants in the room.

  9. harshedmellow - Jul 30, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    That is one unhappy rookie first-rounder there… I wish the article had told us how much money this was about… morbid curiosity I guess. The guy will still be making BANK compared to us Joe Sixpack’s.

    • abchome - Jul 30, 2013 at 2:15 PM

      ~$730,000 for the first 2 years (guaranteed)

  10. lorddarkhelmet - Jul 30, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    I don’t think people realize how crippling it would be to have the 3 max contracts and still try to field a competitive team. it works in Miami (for now) because Wade and in particular Lebron are so incredibly good they can make the team good enough to overcome the lack of depth. In OK you really only have the one true Superstar player and Westbrook is really a notch below that (as is/was Harden). They need to retain flexibility to keep solid depth on the team as their stars are not (yet?) good enough to will a championship on their own.

  11. sal11 - Jul 30, 2013 at 3:07 PM

    This reminds me of Moneyball where Billy Beane told lightly regarded players he’d draft them only if they agreed to accept significantly less than slot value. I hope the Thunder spoke to Roberson before the draft if they planned on doing this to him. Otherwise the money they save won’t be worth the hurt to their reputation.

  12. uscthom78 - Jul 30, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    Seattle’s team got stolen for this bulls—?

  13. jcrileyesq - Jul 30, 2013 at 5:34 PM

    dont sign with them and play overseas…they keep this cheap bs up and kd is going to leave

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