Thunder picks up some defensive help, saves a lot of money

Ronnie Brewer will amp up Oklahoma City's defense, and the Thunder will not have to worry about luxury tax at the same time.
by Jenni Carlson Published: February 21, 2013

The NBA trade deadline came and went Thursday afternoon without the Thunder making a big move.

Ronnie Brewer is coming, a defensive whiz acquired from New York for a future second-round draft pick. He is a relative unknown in these parts, unless you remember him playing at Arkansas or you worship at the House of Sutton — then you know his dad played for Eddie. But if you love Thabo Sefolosha, you're going to love Brewer.

Eric Maynor is going, the third-string point guard shipped to Portland for a trade exception. He hasn't played meaningful minutes for months, the result of never quite returning to form after a devastating knee injury.

But really, neither of those deals is major.

So, why didn't the Thunder strike a big deal?

It all comes down to money.

On a day when no title contenders made any blockbuster moves, the Thunder fell in line. It has decided to basically stay the course with its current collection of players. Same could be said for the Heat and the Spurs and the Pacers and the Clippers and pretty much everyone else in serious contention.

Everyone is mindful of the new collective bargaining agreement.

Here in Oklahoma City, we have long been aware of the punitive nature of the new luxury tax. We became educated about it this past summer with the James Harden contract negotiations, learning more than we probably ever wanted to about the salary cap and the repeater penalties and the like.

Here's a quick refresher.

Under the former collective bargaining agreement, a team paid a dollar for every dollar it went over the salary cap. Exceed the cap by $4 million, and you pay $4 million. Exceed it by $14 million, and you pay $14 million.

But under the new agreement, if you exceed the cap by $4 million, you owe $6 million in luxury tax. And if you exceed it by $14 million, you owe $26.25 million.

As of now, the Thunder is about $1.5 million under the salary cap, so it would owe nothing in luxury taxes.

Which is a good thing. Starting next season, teams that exceed the cap in three of four seasons will be subject to repeater rates. Those rates are even higher.

All of that equates to big money in small-market Oklahoma City, but by the looks of things at this trade deadline, the Thunder isn't the only one concerned about how much it could have to pay in luxury taxes.

Teams everywhere were conservative. There was no blockbuster trade, no big deal that sent a bunch of starters crisscrossing the country to different teams. When the biggest deal that got done involved J.J. Redick and the Milwaukee Bucks, that tells you that there were no big deals.

Is it a bummer for the Thunder?

Absolutely.

Continue reading this story on the...

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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