Russell Westbrook is entering the final year of his contract, he can be a free agent in the summer of 2018.
On July 1 the Oklahoma City Thunder offered Westbrook a designated player “super max” contract extension of an expected $200 million, which would kick in after this coming season. It’s a massive offer that would lock Westbrook into the Thunder through his prime.
He has yet to sign it.
He may not sign it, he doesn’t lose much waiting it out. However, the Thunder remain optimistic he will sign, according to Fred Katz at the Norman Transcript.
The deadline for him to sign is the day before the regular season begins, Oct. 16.
Yet, the reigning MVP has made the Thunder wait almost a month, already. And it could end up being longer — maybe forever, though the organization remains cautiously optimistic about the prospects of Westbrook signing for the long term before the start of the season.
Why Westbrook should wait is that this contract doesn’t make him that much more money than simply waiting the season out, then studying his options next summer and signing a max deal next summer.
The Thunder can offer Westbrook 35 percent of the cap right now thanks to the new designated player provision (that deal would start at just under $35 million a year at the expected salary cap level). However, after this season Westbrook will have been in the NBA 10 years, which means every team can offer him that same 35 percent annual salary starting next summer. What OKC can offer are slightly larger raises and one more guaranteed year. That year is nice if Westbrook doesn’t think he can get maxed out in five years, but he likely can. So the real advantage is the larger raises, and that has not been enough to sway guys in the past because it’s not that much money in the grand scheme.
Westbrook and Paul George should make the Thunder very interesting next season — this will be an elite defensive team trying to figure out the offense. If they do, this team becomes dangerous, but that is still a big “if.”
If Westbrook and George lift OKC deeper in the playoffs than expected, both could choose to stay in OKC. If, however, this doesn’t work out as planned, Westbrook has more options if he doesn’t sign the deal yet — he and George, also a free agent next summer, could leave together or go their separate ways. Also, not signing the keeps pressure on the Thunder ownership to keep spending and moving to make the team better now, rather than cut corners and save money.
Westbrook can make the Thunder feel good and sign this deal, but if he wants to wait you can’t blame him.