Thunder’s reported goal: Extend Russell Westbrook’s contract, sign Blake Griffin

russell westbrook blake griffin
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Why did the Thunder rescind Dion Waiters‘ qualify offer?

To prevent him from unilaterally accepting it and reducing the cap space they need to renegotiate and extend Russell Westbrook‘s contract. And that’s only one component of Oklahoma City’s plan.

Not only do the Thunder want to re-do Westbrook’s deal, they hope to parlay that into signing Blake Griffin.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The move protects salary cap space for the Thunder’s primary offseason objective, league sources said: persuading five-time All-Star guard Russell Westbrook to renegotiate his contract, which would eliminate his 2017 free agency.

For Westbrook, the most likely scenario for a renegotiation would be to use the Thunder’s cap space to guarantee he will stay under contract with the Thunder through the 2017-18 season. This would give Oklahoma City the chance to recruit one of its top targets – 2017 free agent and Oklahoma native Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers – to partner with Westbrook, league sources said.

Convincing Westbrook to extend his contract won’t be easy. Neither will signing Griffin. Pulling off both moves? It’s fine to dream big, but the odds are always against completing these maneuvers.

The 2017-18 salary-cap projection dropping gives Oklahoma City a chance, though.

Westbrook is slated to earn $17,769,374 next season. As long as the Thunder have $8,770,726 in cap space — which they could get by renouncing Waiters, signing him to a lower salary than his cap hold or trading — they can renegotiate Westbrook’s salary up to his max of $26,540,100.

Of course, Oklahoma City wouldn’t give Westbrook a raise without getting something in return: Westbrook agreeing to extend his contract and forgo 2017 free agency.

The most Westbrook could earn in 2017-18 with a renegotiation and extension is $28,530,608. His max in 2017 free agency projects to be $28.8 million. That $269,393 difference is obviously a kick in the bucket compared to the $8,770,726 salary increase he’d get this year.

Two big caveats:

1. The NBA’s projections of revenue estimates, which determines the salary cap and max salaries, tend to be conservative and increase as the fiscal year progresses. Likely, Westbrook’s max as a 2017 free agent will be more than $28.8 million.

2. A new Collective Bargaining Agreement could be in effect by Westbrook’s free agency, and that could change everything. With Michele Roberts’ comments about the max and the union’s executive committee including Chris Paul, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Carmelo Anthony, there’s a good chance conditions are more favorable to superstars like Westbrook. So, locking into a multi-deal under current conditions might not be wise.

And then there’s Griffin.

His tenure with the Clippers appears to be on shakier ground than ever. His last season was marred by punching a trainerinjury, his teammates making a run with him sidelined and trade rumors.

He’ll almost certainly opt out of his contract after the season, and returning to his native Oklahoma could hold appeal. It’d certainly be more intriguing if Westbrook stays — and the potential of adding Griffin might be the splash the Thunder need to keep Westbrook.

But the timing is tricky.

Westbrook would have to renegotiate and extend his contract by Feb. 28. In all practicality, he’ll have to do it this offseason. If Westbrook isn’t amenable to renegotiating and extending, Oklahoma City will want to use its cap space to upgrade the team elsewhere.

Westbrook can add up to three years to his contract, but Griffin won’t be a free agent until July. Would Westbrook agree to stay without a commitment from Griffin? How many additional years would Westbrook accept? Would Griffin sign with the Thunder if Westbrook is only locked up for one more year? Would Westbrook extend for multiple years and risk getting trapped on a declining team that doesn’t add Griffin?

And on and on the circle goes.

This is a long shot. It also might be Oklahoma City’s best shot.