The Thunder probably won’t extend any of the three.
Russell Westbrook‘s renegotiation-and-extension gives Oklahoma City an extra year persuade Westbrook he should stay, but he’ll still be an unrestricted free agent in 2018. The clock is ticking, and the best course to upgrading the roster involves beginning the 2017 offseason with Oladipo, Adams and Roberson unsigned.
If one of the three fourth-year players were to sign an extension, his cap number on July 1 would be his 2017-18 salary. If they forgo extensions, their cap number will be a percentage of their previous salary. For each, that’d be:
- Oladipo: $13,105,921
- Adams: $7,851,293
- Roberson: $5,457,681
All three are likely to command a salary above their cap hold – maybe even up to their projected max of nearly $24 million for Oladipo and Adams. So Oklahoma City can count those players at their cap holds, use its cap space then exceed the cap to re-sign them using Bird Rights.
But that was always the case. What does Westbrook’s extension change?
Theoretically, Oladipo, Adams or Roberson could’ve accepted less over the course of a long-term extension to outweigh the Thunder’s cap-space reduction in 2017. But with Westbrook still headed toward free agency so soon, 2017 becomes a much bigger priority than 2019 or 2020.
The Thunder must impress Westbrook before he can leave in 2018.
With Oladipo’s, Adams’ and Roberson’s cap holds, Oklahoma City would be an Enes Kanter trade and one other small deal from offering a max contract next summer to someone with fewer than 10 years experience – say Oklahoma native Blake Griffin.
It might not be easy to trade Kanter. It might not be easy to swing a second salary dump without downgrading the roster too greatly. It might not be easy to lure Griffin or anyone else.
The salary cap could change from the latest projection. The entire Collective Bargaining Agreement could change.
But by not extending Oladipo, Adams and Roberson, the Thunder maximize their 2017 flexibility. And Oklahoma City would face only limited risk of losing those players. All three will be restricted free agents.
If the Thunder strike out in 2017, it might be time to trade Westbrook before he hits 2018 free agency.
But, before it comes to that, Oklahoma City can take its best swing next summer by not extending Oladipo, Adams or Roberson now.