(Correction/Update: Original reporting indicated that Cook's contract was $7.5 million over two years. The correct number is $6.5 million over two years.)
Daequan Cook was the lone Thunder player from last season who was not under contract when the lockout began. If you recall, the Thunder had extended a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Cook on June 27th. However, before Cook could re-sign, the lockout ended all negotiations.
Now that the league is getting back into the normal swing of things (Chris Paul drama aside), the team has resumed talks with Cook and have apparently reached a deal of $6.5 million over two years. As Royce Young at Daily Thunder writes, that might seem like a lot of money for a guy who on a good night might play 15 minutes and take about five shots. It may seem even steeper still when you realize that their starting power forward, Serge Ibaka, only makes $1.3 million this coming year. Why pay Cook more than Ibaka now?
The short answer is, of course, because the Thunder can. Ibaka (and James Harden) will be on their rookie scale contracts for the next two seasons, so they will not be causing any dramatic increase in the team's cap until then. With Cook's two year offer, he has a small window to earn more than he might make elsewhere by virtue of the way that the team has organized its contracts.
More importantly though, I think that the Cook signing is a strong signal from GM Sam Presti and team management that they have complete confidence in the team they have assembled. Every key cog in last year's team is now re-signed and they are primed to take aim at moving a step beyond where they finished last year. On top of that, a championship team needs a player like Cook. If you think back to the Finals last season, Miami found itself in short supply of outside shooting when their designated 3-point specialist Mike Miller struggled. Contending teams need guys like Cook to balance out the court and keep defenses honest.
The Thunder have their team. In the roller-coaster Western Conference, who else can say the same?