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The Offseason Move No One is Talking About.

September 12, 2012

NBA

 The Oklahoma City Thunder, an organization considered as the best model today on how to build through the draft and has so far been known to have quiet off-seasons while handling their business, have been at it again this offseason. It’s just surprising to me that not many have been talking about them.

For those of you who haven’t heard, Forward Serge Ibaka has signed an extension with the defending Western Conference Champions, Oklahoma City, over this offseason. The deal agreed upon is a contract extension worth $48 million over 4 years. The 22-year-old has been a crucial part of the Thunder’s improvement and consequent success over the recent years. He has improved every year since he came into the league and is the reigning league leader in blocked shots per game with 3.6 blocks per game. His presence defensively makes it a no brainer for the Thunder to sign him to an extension and avoid any bidding wars in the 2012-2013 free agency period. However, while Ibaka has signed to a contract extension, another key piece to the Thunder’s success, James Harden, is on the last year of his deal.

For arguments sake, let’s say that the Oklahoma City Thunder do not sign James Harden to an extension or attempt to resign him next offseason. The idea seems ridiculous but before you discard the possibility of this happening lets look at the players the Thunder will be committed to in 2013-2014 season. The Thunder is committed to whopping $62,678,559 million in the 2013-2014 season. The 8 players are: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison, Perry Jones and Hasheem Thabeet. If we then take the likely and deserved 4-year, $58 million or approximately $14.5 million a year, max offer that a restricted free agent can receive in the 2012-2013 season as a basis on the offer James Harden will receive, that puts the Thunder at $77,178,559 million that year. If we also assume that the salary cap for that season will be similar to this years $58+ million, that puts the Thunder nearly $20 million over the cap space and it leaves them with little flexibility in filling out their roster. This means that the Oklahoma City Thunder cannot afford James Harden without going deep into the luxury tax.

Going into this offseason the Thunder had a decision to make: Serge Ibaka or James Harden. With Serge Ibaka’s contract extension it has become clear that a decision has been made. To put it frankly, this is James Harden’s last year in Oklahoma. Sure, James Harder could take less money or ownership could have a change in heart and pay the huge amounts of luxury tax but lets not focus and speculate on what could be but instead lets address the question that’s in the back of everyone’s mind now. Was Serge Ibaka the right way to go?

James Harden is probably a much more “known” player than Serge Ibaka. He is the reigning sixth man of the year and a guard who can score. Guards who can score will always be more popular than defensive minded big men, especially to the casual fan. He is considered the third part to the Thunders big three. And let’s face it, with that beard how can he not be more celebrated.

Here’s the thing though, the Oklahoma City Thunder have assessed each of their players based on value and to put it bluntly, it’s harder to replace a Serge Ibaka than it is to replace a James Harden. With a guard heavy league, there are more James Harden type players running down the court, even if their value is a little less than his at the present time. Then there’s Serge Ibaka, a 6-10 player with lanky, defensive arms and athleticism that most big men do not possess. He’s only been in the league 3 years and his all around game is improving, from his defense to that mid range jumper. The same can be said about James Harden, but a Serge Ibaka type player is important for the Thunder to compete in the Western Conference. OKC just can’t expect to be as successful against the Los Angles Lakers if they do not have an inside presence. The pairing of Ibaka and Perkins up front at least ensures that they do not get completely destroyed down low.

There’s still a full season ahead of us and Sam Presti could work his magic and possibly work something out. But with the Thunder’s current situation, they do not have much flexibility. Nothing is set in stone but it has become more evident that James Harden will be wearing a different jersey in the 2013-2014 season.

Do you think that Thunder made the right choice?

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About Steven Nardo

I'm from the Philippines and currently attending a university in Melbourne. I grew up a big basketball fan and have also developed interest in most sports. I've decided to write for the Farm Club as it presented me the opportunity to combine two of my passions; Basketball and Writing.I hope you enjoy my work and your comments are always greatly appreciated!

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4 Comments on “The Offseason Move No One is Talking About.”

  1. daschound Says:

    Just based on the finals last year, Harden cost them a title by under preforming. (It wasn’t all his fault, but they would have been much more deadly provided he played like the reigning Sixth Man of the Year). Now, that being said, Harden will stay in an OKC uniform provided they give him the contract he deserves. I will bet Harden’s numbers will be higher this year. His experience in the Olympics will help, but the most important thing that you definitely noted was that he is in a contract year. Nothing motivates an NBA player like money, and you’ll notice his numbers go up this year due to him playing stronger for the money he may or may not deserve. He’ll stay, and OKC will be contenders for a while (they could always dump some of the contracts via trade, although unlikely right?), and they’ll be in the luxury tax for a while. But provided this team keeps contending, I’m sure their ticket sales will stay up, and revenue will be fine. So why not pay?

    Reply

    • Steven Nardo Says:

      I definitely agree with you that he under performed, had he played to standard it could have been much more interesting. And i also agree with you that he will get better this year which consequently means a larger contract. I just don’t think that OKC will have the financial capabilities to sign him to a max offer contract which he deserves and will probably get from somewhere else. OKC just isn’t the market Los Angeles or New York is, with him on board they will likely be around $20 million above cap for just 8 players! With the new CBA increasing the luxury tax, it just makes it even less likely that they offer him a an extension. But of course all of this is just my opinion and I could totally be wrong and he does end up staying in OKC. Being a Lakers fan, theres a part of me that wants him to move East but I guess we will find out this soon. I just can’t wait for the season to start!

      Reply

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