Thunder continue trend of signing players before they hit free agency with Nick Collison extension

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The Thunder inked Nick Collison to a contract extension on Tuesday, one that is expected to pay him in the neighborhood of $7.5 million over the next two seasons.

Collison, now in his eleventh year with the team, isn’t exactly having a banner statistical season. But he’s hard-working and professional, and epitomizes the type of players that the organization hopes to continue to bring in for years to come.

The extension wasn’t just about Collison’s character, however. It continues a trend that OKC has been able to execute successfully, where they sign players currently on the roster to longer-term deals in order to avoid having to overpay for them once they hit free agency.

But the Thunder only do that under the right circumstances — look no further than the way things played out with James Harden and Jeff Green for some fairly high-profile examples of what most believe to be failed personnel decisions. And when they can’t come to terms on a deal they believe to be favorable, they attempt to get assets in return via trade before allowing talented players to walk as free agents.

From Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:

This is the eighth time in the past six years that a Thunder player has signed a contract extension and bypassed the chance at free agency, including high-profile players like Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.

While some may question the attractiveness of the Oklahoma City market, the Thunder have largely been successful in keeping their top players when they’ve offered significant money. …

“This organization has always shown an interest in getting something done [before free agency],” Collision said. “When both sides feel good about the deal, then things get done.”

This is why Reggie Jackson seems almost certain to be traded before the Feb. 19 deadline. Not only is Dion Waiters getting longer looks in the lineup since he was brought over in trade from the Cavaliers, but Jackson has been open about wanting a bigger role in the starting lineup next season — which won’t ever happen with the Thunder as long as Westbrook remains on the roster.

Jackson as a restricted free agent would mean that OKC would have the right to match any offer he might receive, but it’s more than likely he’d command more than the Thunder would be willing to spend. Given that reality, and the way the team has historically conducted its business, it would be somewhat of a surprise if Jackson was still a part of the team a few weeks from now.

One more thought, and that’s how Collison’s deal may or may not tie in with Kevin Durant, and his free agency that will be upon us at the conclusion of next season. It’s seems like a stretch to make any real connection; if Durant wants to continue to be in Oklahoma City, the team will unquestionably roll out a max contract offer for him to do so — even if it ends up being in the $200 million range.

There’s no negotiation to be had where Durant is concerned, which is why his situation isn’t at all one that’s similar.