The clock is ticking for a lot of players in the 2008 draft class. Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Danilo Gallinari, Eric Gordon and Nicolas Batum are all looking for extensions, while Derrick Rose is the only guy to have signed one out of that group.
Blame the new collective bargaining agreement, I guess. I don't think it's any coincidence that the one guy that has his extension plays in Chicago, while the three that are still waiting play in Oklahoma City, Portland and Minnesota.
The deadline for extensions is Jan. 25 and with that just a week away, there isn't a whole lot of time to hammer something out. Don't get a deal done and those guys will become restricted free agents on July 1, which opens up a lot of possibilities. And less money, most likely.
Love reportedly will be getting an offer of four years, $60 million, which he almost surely will turn down. Batum wants an extension but with his role being complicated behind Gerald Wallace, he's up in the air. Gallinari might be getting closer and Gordon has himself quite the awkward situation in New Orleans.
But what about Westbrook? He was an All-Star last season, second-team All-NBA and a rising star in the league. It should be a no-brainer for him to have an extension in his pocket and five more years in Oklahoma City. Shouldn't he have had his done a long time ago?
Except that situation is complicated and there are a number of reasons that Westbrook very well may not get extended before the Jan. 25 deadline. Why hasn't he been extended? The new CBA certainly has a hand in it, as well as Westbrook's teammates.
Westbrook and the Thunder are "dug in right now," according to Yahoo! Sports, but indications are the two sides will find a common ground between five years $80 million which is reportedly what OKC is offering and the max, which could potentially be five years and $94 million if Westbrook qualifies for the Rose Rule.
Which is exactly what's holding back the Thunder.
Based on observations, instinct and a few conversations with people in the know around and in the organization, the Rose Rule is what’s making the Thunder are bit more conservative than they otherwise would’ve been. Because if you extend Westbrook for the max right now and then he goes on to make an All-NBA team, he’d retroactively get a big pay bump.
What's the Rose Rule and why does it matter? It was added to the new collective bargaining agreement as something to help franchises keep their young stars. If a player is named MVP -- hence "Rose Rule" -- is voted twice a starter in the All-Star Game or makes two All-NBA teams, he qualifies for an extra five percent salary bump. So instead of getting a max extension, which is normally 25 percent of a teams cap, the player would get 30 percent. The rule has good intentions but for a team like Oklahoma City, it could be devastating because it has two players that could be eligible. Which would mean the Thunder could be paying out 60 percent of their cap to just two players.
For instance, Kevin Durant had his contract affected by the new Rose Rule and will make almost $15 million more over the life of his deal because of it. That prospect is something that the Thunder are leery of, especially considering James Harden and Serge Ibaka will be eligible for extensions next season.
Harden could be complicating that as much as anyone because of his rise as a high-caliber player. Harden has been compared often to Manu Ginobili, but that’s exactly the kind of dollar situation OKC wants to place Harden in. In 2010, Ginobili signed a three-year, $38 million extension with the Spurs. It paid him $11.8 million last season, $12.9M this season and $14.1M next season. The Thunder would love for that to be a five-year deal, but the dollar range is similar. Have Harden on the books for around $12 million a year, Durant at $17 million and Westbrook in the $15-16 million range.
That’s about $46 million which leaves room for a potential extension for Ibaka and role players like Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, Daequan Cook and others. Remember, the luxury tax line was set at $70 million last season and that’s the number the Thunder want to stay away from. Right now though, because of the Rose Rule bumping Durant’s deal, OKC is actually over the cap. Which isn’t helping things.
There has been a good amount of chatter about “choosing” between Westbrook or Harden and Ibaka, but that’s not the thinking of the Thunder’s front office. Multiple sources have told me that the Thunder’s preference is to keep the entire core. That might sound painfully obvious, but in the team’s mind, they don’t want to be choosing between anything. They want this group to stay intact for a long run together where they grow, mature and develop. It might not be possible, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to try. That’s been the plan all along. These guys weren’t drafted just to develop over the life of a rookie deal and then move on. They were drafted to be part of a long-term vision.
That’s the plan. And that’s why there’s a hold-up. It’s a negotiation though. Westbrook and more important, Westbrook’s agent, obviously see Westbrook as a max player. While he probably is, or at least very close to it, in the best interest of the Thunder, he isn’t. I’m not saying it would be good for Westbrook to not play well enough to make All-NBA again, but if he didn’t, it wouldn’t be all bad.
Westbrook wants to remain a part of the Thunder and obviously the Thunder want to keep him. But it’s about dollars and cents lining up for the long-term sustainability of the team. I can’t say with any large amount of confidence that Westbrook gets an extension before Jan. 25, but I do believe he will be in OKC for the next few years.
But I guess we’ll get a better idea of that in about a week.