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An overview of the Oklahoma City Thunder's 2015 Salary Cap Situation

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Can we afford to keep Kanter? How do we avoid the repeater tax? Will there be a lockout in 2016?

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Millions of dollars worth of flesh and bone collide!
Millions of dollars worth of flesh and bone collide!
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Courtesy of Basketball-Reference, here's the Thunder's salary situation currently:

thundersalary

Using this as a basis, I'm going to form a loose timeline of what the Thunder's salary and roster situation might look like over the next four years....

2014-15

  • The Thunder were $1,962,632 over the tax this year. This is the first year the Thunder will be over the tax line in their history. That means they will pay the standard luxury tax of $1.50 for every dollar spent over the tax, or $2,943,948.

2015-16

  • Without the potential salaries of Waiters, Kanter, and Singler, the Thunder have a payroll of $78,260,712. The Luxury tax level isn't determined yet, but will likely be somewhere around $80 million. In other words, the Thunder are almost guaranteed to break the tax again next season.
  • Dion Waiters has a team option for $5.1 Million. The Thunder could always spurn it and try to get away with paying Dion less, but trading away Reggie Jackson for him (in theory, though we gave away a first round pick in practice) was a big investment. The Thunder certainly won't let Dion walk, so you can pretty much already put their salary for 15-16 at $83.3 Mil.
  • Enes Kanter is a restricted free agent. This means that, after an initial Thunder offer, any opposing team has the right to offer Kanter even more money. If Kanter commits to another team's offer, OKC has three days to match. OKC will definitely match whatever offer Kanter gets, and it's likely to be anywhere from 6-12 million, depending on the market. For perspective, Kanter rejected
  • Kyle Singler can sign wherever he wants. No one gave him much of a look after his rookie contract last year, but things could get competitive if Singler turns out to be a key floor spacer on a successful team. For now, expect to pay $1-4 million a year.
  • Assuming the Thunder's 2015 first round pick falls outside the top 18, it will go to the Cavs 76ers. Overall, OKC will have no guaranteed salary from the draft. The Thunder do hold their unguaranteed late second rounder, though.
  • The Thunder have promised a contract to Josh Huestis in 2016-17, at the standard rookie scale. Huestis was drafted with the 29th overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. Normally first round picks go straight to the NBA, but Huestis agreed to go to the D-League for a year beforehand. Assuming that Huestis gets his spot, the Thunder may need to let Kyle Singler walk. Huestis is currently averaging 11 points on 39% shooting, 6 rebounds, and an assist in 33 minutes a game for the Oklahoma City Blue. Thanks to RQ for the heads up on Huestis' constract situation.
  • With all three players salaries combined, the Thunder stand at a minimum of $87 million and a maximum of around $94 million. Assuming the tax is somewhere around $80 million, the Thunder will probably be in a battle to keep themselves under $90 million in total salary. You see, the scale at which OKC has to pay the tax jumps up significantly when they go $10 million over. The table below has the info, stolen from Larry Coon's CBA FAQ:
    tax

2016-17

  • 2016 will almost certainly see another labor stoppage. It's no secret that Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter lost the negotiations for the players in 2011, and the players union has been preparing for their revenge ever since. Even back in the summer of 2014, the NBPA was asking players to structure their contracts in order to survive longer without pay.
  • If the Thunder pay the luxury tax in 2016-17 or 2017-18, they will have to also pay the repeater tax. Any team that has paid the luxury tax in 3 of the past 4 seasons must pay the repeater tax, and OKC went over the luxury line in 14-15 and 15-16. Obviously negotiations could change things, but here's what the taxes look like currently (again stolen from Larry Coon's CBA FAQ):
    tax2
  • The cap will rise significantly during 2016. As you might have noticed, the NBA is much more successful than it was in 2011. Franchises are selling in the billions, TV Deals are getting more lucrative, and the worldwide audience is constantly expanding. How exactly the salary is re-structured will be a point of debate. During the 2015 All-Star weekend, the NBA proposed a staggered cap structure that increased the team's total salary incrementally over the course of a couple of years. The extra money left over would be given to players equally according to how much they were already paid that season. The NBPA didn't like the proposal, and may want the cap increased significantly immediately.
  • Either way, Kevin Durant is in for a huge, huge payday. He'll undoubtedly command the maximum amount of money possible, and the Thunder will undoubtedly offer it do him. Whether that breaks the bank is anyone's guess. (LeBron will likely command a bigger salary, as he has more contract years under his belt.)
  • The salaries of Anthony Morrow, Steven Adams, Mitch McGary, and Andre Roberson are all team options. The salaries are set, regardless of what happens in CBA negotations. Adams, McGary, and Roberson are huge steals at those amounts, and will almost certainly return. Morrow will be 31 at this point and perhaps not worth that money. But the team option provides the Thunder with some leeway, and Morrow will likely only return if the Thunder can stuff his salary under the tax.
  • Waiters, Augustin, Lamb, Jones, and possibly Singler will be unrestricted free agents. As it stands, the one who stands to collect the most money is Augustin. But at that point, one of the younger guys may have made a name for themselves. Anything at this point is just guesswork though, and it'd be foolish to think that the Thunder won't make a deal between now and then.
  • OKC holds their first and second round picks for 2016, and will have to commit salary to at least one rookie. Given that the roster is currently full, this means that at least one player will not re-sign with the Thunder after this season.

2017-18

  • OKC's big salary juggernauts at this point are probably KD and Kanter.
  • Collison, Adams, McGary, and Roberson are the four players almost certain to be under contract.
  • We've gotta re-sign Russ and Ibaka in the same year.

Is Kanter worth signing at any cost next year? How will OKC avoid the repeater tax in 2016? Drop a comment and let us know!