Taxing Situation Ahead For Thunder?

HANG TIME, Texas — The Thunder have ponied up $48 million over the next four years to keep Serge Ibaka in the fold. So they’re down to the last piece of the puzzle, James Harden, who could become a free agent next summer.

Based on everything they’ve done to this point, does anyone really think general manager Sam Presti is going to stop now, one step short of keeping the whole together for a run at the NBA championship?

Zach Lowe at SI.com breaks down all of the numbers and the dollars and the amount of luxury taxes the Thunder will be forced to pay:

The tax line is at $70.4 million now, and it will go up as league revenues rise. But most projections have the tax line somewhere around $75 million in the 2015-16, and very solid growth (about 3 percent) would have it jump only to $72.5 million in 2013-14 and $74.6 million in the following season. Note again: These are estimates.
Under the harsh new tax rates that kick in for the 2013-14 — just in time! — the Thunder would be paying a tax bill ranging from $7.5 million to $12.5 million or so, depending on the exact tax level and how much the team’s ownership is willing to spend on the back of the roster.

Is Oklahoma City, the league’s second-smallest market, willing to spend something like $85 million or even $90 million to fill a team?

My hunch is that they are — at least for those two seasons. Deals attached to Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison expire after 2014-15, leaving the Thunder in 2015-16 with about $66.5 million committed to the four stars in and all their draft picks between now and then — and the ability to slide under the tax or nuzzle right up against it. Of course, there are huge unknowns here, including the Thunder’s place in the league’s revenue-sharing system and the financial state of Aubrey McClendon, a minority owner whose energy company (Chesapeake) has come under increased scrutiny for its financial state and internal practices.

Still, you own a team to chase titles, and the Thunder might be willing to swallow hard and pay the tax for two seasons of title-chasing — a precious commodity, really. The use of the amnesty provision on Perkins would be a game-changer, tax-wise, and it will be interesting to see if Perry Jones develops fast enough to at least make Oklahoma City think about going to battle with a three-man big rotation of Jones, Collison and Ibaka, plus flotsam on the bench. It’s a risk, especially with the the Lakers bulking up, but the notion that Perkins is a Dwight Howard stopper became a bit outdated by the end of the 2010-11 season. But Perkins is a valuable post defender who provides depth and the ability for Scott Brooks to play several different sorts of lineups.

Is it an expensive game to play when you’re little ol’ OKC? Of course.

Is it a risky proposition to lay everything on the line in an era when the Lakers have reloaded and the Heat may just be coming together? You bet.

Do you do it if you’re the Thunder? In a heartbeat.

57 Comments

  1. Isaac says:

    Harden or Perkins will be let go by OKC. If Perkins is let go the Thunder won’t be able to beat LAL in a 7-game series with Gasol and Howard. If Harden is let go they have an unlimited possibilitys of trades that they can pull of. If they let either one go it might be better to let go Harden. You can get more players and most likely 2 solid bench players that put in 10 a night but with Perkins gone OKC will be punished in the paint. They can possibly trade Harden to the Magic and get some nice pieces maybe get jameer nelson or affalo and harrington.

  2. Jasonkid ferolino says:

    trade ibaka and harden for howard

  3. No one has mentioned that they still need to extend Eric Maynor’s contract to prevent him from becoming a restricted free agent in 2013-14 also. IMO, he was the missing piece on the the Thunder’s drive to the championship with his season ending injury early in the season. Much more valuable off the bench than Reggie Jackson with his cool demeaner. As much as I love Harden & Perkins, they are expendable to help hold the salary cap down. Sam Presti has a great eye for picking exceptional talent and Perry Jones is going to fit nicely. I would also trade Cole Aldrich as I don’t belive he’s developing to the level they need.

  4. Kam says:

    OKC needs to keep Harden to contend with the Heat and the new look Lakers for a championship. Harden is too big of a defensive force to let go, he’s one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Also he’s a huge threat offensively with his drives to the rim and 3 pointers. 6th man of the year, one of the best free throw % in NBA, and a probable all star….. what more to ask for? Even with the huge 1 2 punch of Durant Westbrook, I believe that Harden is the backbone of OKC.

  5. zgillet says:

    They need to trade Perkins for a cheaper alternative to keep Harden.

  6. Richard says:

    Just send him to the New Orleans Hornets. We could surely use him and would welcome him. There’s no place like New Orleans, James you would love it here.

  7. Liam says:

    If Perkins is amnestied he is going to be gobbled up by another team quicker than lightning, please ignore box scores when you are talking about a players value.

  8. nba fan says:

    if okc cant find a way to resign harden the should trade him because harden needs a big contract not like durant or westbrook but a player his caliber needs a good contract

  9. th says:

    LAL>NBA,DREAMTEAM 1992 COMBINED

  10. theTRUTH says:

    2013-2014 LAKERS ROSTER
    pg.cris paul
    sg.kobe
    sf.durant
    pf.lebron
    c.dwight
    BENCH.love,bynum,rudy gay,wade,rose
    10straight championship win

  11. Chris says:

    Collison will most likely finish his playing career at OKC, and then be on the coaching staff or in management at the organization, they think very highly of him. Perkins will be unloaded as soon as possible, not enough bang for the bucks they are paying him. Presti had to choose between giving a larger contract to Ibaka or Harden. They felt they needed Ibaka more than Harden, or that Harden was more likely of the two to accept a lesser contract in negotiations. I agree with the decision, not that Ibaka is better, but because of his size and defense at the rim, he is more valuable to THIS team. If they have to let Harden go, they will get plenty for him, in pics or good player/s. Either way, the Thunder will come out on top, it always pays to draft well.

  12. Bobby says:

    Anyone who views Perkins as a “Howard Stopper” did not watch them match up last year. Howard dominated Perkins from start to finish

  13. gabo says:

    HARDEN SHOULD BETTER GO TO LAKERS A GOOD BACKUP FOR KOBE

  14. Majestic One says:

    If you are chasing titles then you reload after Perkins and Collison expire so I don’t see them getting any tax relief with Durant, Serge and Westbrook on the roster. What probably gives the Thunder concern with Harden is becoming “repeat offenders” of paying the tax for 4 years which will really get expensive and cause pain. If they sign Harden there is no turning back because they will have to add salary to continue being title chasers after Perkins and Collison expire. They might be better off seeking a deal with the Suns in getting a TE in a S&T they can use to acquire less costly talent on short contracts and some picks to boost.

  15. AlexN says:

    I can see OKC amnestying Perkins next summer if Harden resigns now, just to try and balance the books a bit more

  16. sammy says:

    This is a fast closing window that the Thunder may never have till another lifetime…they need to keep this core together but at the same time be carefull. Since they kept Ibaka, I fear Perkins could be amnestied, Harden is a sure “for-keeps”. I expect they could have delayed Ibaka’s deal and weigh in on Him or Perkins. Tough decisions to make, started wrongly rushing Ibaka’s….Personal Opinion though.

  17. G.O.A.T says:

    they should have trade ibaka and harden for pau gasol and maybe steve blake?

  18. geeza says:

    EVERYTHING IS A KUNDI!!

  19. Cactus Crunch says:

    bring the beard to phoenix!!!! SUNS recieves James Harden & THUNDER recieves Shannon Brown + a 1st round pick

  20. OKC 4 life says:

    OKC should do whatever to keep their core, as long as the franchise is making profit. You will be even more profitable if you win a chiampionship, your team’s value will go up and so does the merchandise sales. This team can still improve 2-3 years in a row, with the current roster they have. This franchise is much better than LA or Miami. They are just blame each other when they lose and they only go for big name free agents because they have the money. Miami got away with a championship last season, one that they’ve barely won and you could even call it a steal. They are not going to be so lucky this year, even if OKC will not be able to play them in the finals, the Lakers will punish them for not looking for big man to fill in the middle. I am not a Laker supporter, but it’s that’s how it’s going to come down in the finals then go the lakers!

  21. SunsFanFanfanfanfan says:

    I’d like to see a picture of $40million worth of captain crunch

  22. yakitoko says:

    Yeah OKC should stay the way they are and keep improving. They will be even better this season, so paying extras for that is ok. With all the teams move and trade in LA, Miami, Boston, denever, Philly and OKC this season gonna be electrifying; I love this game!!!!!

  23. Ramon says:

    At least he suggested they pay him in captain crunch, that’s a novelty from LBJ´s part. On the other hand, how are the heat exactly going to get Dwight Howard? You are a troll or a crazy bandwagon fan of the Heat. It would make more sense for a small market to sign him, as all big markets probably will be paying luxury tax like crazy in the next few years.

  24. socalskurrupted says:

    Lamar Odom was a better 6th man, at least he won a championship.

  25. Austin says:

    The suns will sign James harden it makes sense it’s where he went to college he likes it here and the suns have the cap room to do it

  26. Tangina Mo says:

    lbj lives in nba 2k franchise

  27. Krespino says:

    Such a small market team becoming primary title contenders… That is a dream come true and great success. They SHOULD pay whatever lttle price for it, pay $8 or 10 million tax if necesary, and seek to create additional revenues to compensate.
    They would be fools to not sign Harden for financial reasons.
    Once you are at the NBA finals, if you do not keep the roster that got you there, you disrupt the chemistry, you are ruining your chances forever; see Orlando Magic.

  28. LMFAOOOOO says:

    RUSSSPECTTSS to this guy named “lbj” just made my day

    MIAMI is winning the next two chamipionships

    • Reality says:

      do not jump into conclusions. consider the taxes, salary cap, and hard cap of the teams. the heat has one of the highest salary caps in the league!!! thanks to LeBron, and Bosh on top of Wade.

      • RKooly says:

        Players who took less money to play for the Miami Heat (other places could of given them way more money):
        Lebron James
        Dwyane Wade
        Chris Bosh
        Udonis Haslem
        Ray Allen
        Shane Battier
        Mike Miller
        Rashard Lewis
        Just about the whole team

    • LMFAOOOOO Guy says:

      Miami cant win any thing. They Just won because the Thunder are yong and there is was challange in the east.

      • s27m says:

        keep talkin, watch next season miami will win 65 games in the season

      • W3 says:

        Miami cant win anything? They just won the finals, how is that not winning anything? Just another idiot Miami hater..

      • lol... says:

        rashard lewis is still getting his $. he was amnesty’d from the washington generals. therefore he will still get paid. just because he took the veterans minimum from the heat. doesnt mean washington doesnt have to pay him his overpriced contract.

  29. ‘lbj’ isn’t really a Heat fan (he’s probably a Lakers or Celtics guy), just ignore him. He’s trolls like this every chance he gets.

    • AM says:

      True, lbj it’s just a heat’s and lebron’s hater, that’s why he always makes so stupid coments, that way people will hate more..

  30. lbj says:

    james harden will sign with the heat, we will stay under the cap by paying him in captain crunch

    startling lineup 2013

    pg: harden
    sg:wade
    sf: lebron
    pf: bosh
    c: dwighthoward

    backup sg: ray allen

    HEAT 2013 CHAMPS!!!!@@@

  31. wow, I didnt know that OKC was that small of a franchise…I hope they keep all their pieces and get a championship through improvement…not by adding superstars to their rosters….go OKC