Ibaka was set to become a free agent following the 2012-13 season, so this extension keeps the Thunder out of any bidding wars to keep Ibaka defending and blocking shots next to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for another four years.
The three Thunder stars will take up around $45-$50 million of the team's salary cap during the three years their contracts overlap. If the NBA salary cap continues to hover around the current $58 million, that doesn't leave a lot of money to fill out the remainder of the roster.
WHAT ABOUT JAMES HARDEN!??!?!?!?!
That is the question running through most of your minds right now. What are we going to do without our sixth man off of the bench?
I say, blah blah blah blah. We literally just signed Serge Ibaka to something like 10-14 million dollars per year, depending on the year. A maximum contract would start at 14 million, and continually escalate to something like 18 million. This is fantastic value for the league's leading shot blocker and a player that I'm sure at least 10 other teams would have overpaid to get their hands on.
I mean, assuming Ibaka gets 11 million in his first year, he's getting paid around the same amount David Lee, Ben Gordon, Hedo Turkoglu, Kevin Martin, and Monta Ellis were being paid last season. If he gets 13 or 14 million in his final year, he's into the territory of a Al Jefferson, Andre Igoudala, or Carlos Boozer. Considering the market, this contract is an absolute steal.
Look, I know that James Harden talked about how he wanted to be here for a long time. I know he played for Team USA, has an awesome beard, and was basically our backup PG last year. I know he had a variety of playoff moments, and was an indispensable part of our team. But when you get right down to it, when you consider the market of players available and what's easier to get, a big man shot blocker and dunker will always get the nod over a scoring two guard of similar caliber. Always.
On top of that, saying that you want to stay with the team and actually agreeing to a reasonable contract while playing for the team are two totally different things. At the end of the day, Harden might have wanted max, while Ibaka was willing to bite the bullet.
And keep in mind, this isn't necessarily the end all be all of James Harden's saga with the Thunder. He's still got one more season on contract, and if we win the title next season, money might not mean everything for the man. You also have to consider that Clay Bennett and the rest of the ownership group might be willing to dip into the luxury tax in order to keep Harden. It's a long shot, especially with the Luxury Tax becoming much more expensive to maintain once the Thunder hit that barrier, but you never really know until you reach that point.
When it comes right down to it, I love what happened today. Ibaka was signed for an absolute steal of a contract, and the Thunder are virtually guaranteed to be a playoff team for years to come. He's still got a lot of growing to do in terms of scoring, and showed excellent ability while playing for Spain this Summer. Eric Maynor will be back to replace Harden's handling, and while his scoring might be something the Thunder can never replace, it's a heck of a lot harder to find a replacement for post defense than it is for perimeter scoring.
What do you think of the signing? Vote in the poll, post a comment!