Signing Russell Westbrook to an extension is job one for Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti once the NBA lockout officially ends. Here's a look at other looming roster issues he'll be considering:
Signing Daequan Cook. The sharpshooter is a restricted free agent, meaning the Thunder can match any offer from another team. Cook proved last season that he's a valuable commodity and a very capable threat from downtown after connecting on a career-high 42.2 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Sign Reggie Jackson. This should be an open-and-close task. Jackson, the 24th overall pick in the draft, can only make the scale salary slotted for his selection.
Exercise Cole Aldrich's fourth-year option. Again, view this as a routine task that will get done sometime before the June 30 deadline. The second-year center out of Kansas was a lottery pick and the Thunder has only begun to develop him.
Extend James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Eric Maynor. This can't happen until July 1, 2012 at the earliest. But you better believe it's on the Thunder's radar now. Center Byron Mullens is also in this category, but unlike the other three his development will determine whether he sticks around. For Harden, Ibaka and Maynor, this season will only help determine how much they're worth.
Trade Nate Robinson. There is no guarantee that it'll happen. But it remains a possibility at any point this season. Keep an eye on the two-week free agent frenzy that could ensue starting Dec. 9. As teams scramble to get their rosters in order, Robinson, who's in the final year of a relatively inexpensive ($4.5 million) contract, could become a desired commodity. But whether it's now or at the trading deadline, the Thunder can't afford to have a potential malcontent lingering in the locker room all season if he clearly isn't in the plans.
Find bench scoring. This one's iffy. There's a widespread belief that the Thunder doesn't have enough. That might be true if Harden supplants Thabo Sefolosha in the starting lineup. But according to 82games.com, the Thunder's winningest lineup based on score and minutes (at least 80 played as a unit) was Maynor, Cook, Harden, Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed. Jackson and Robinson could be spark plugs off the bench in spot minutes. But a more reliable weapon might be needed. The problem is two-fold: there is no room on the Thunder's roster, and this free agency class is extremely weak. The front office will once again have to get ultra creative to find a cure.
Key points to the tentative agreement to end the NBA lockout
NBA owners and players have reached a tentative agreement to end the 149-day lockout and plan to begin the delayed season on Christmas Day.
Here are some highlights:
* The deal: Largely completed around 3 a.m. EST Saturday, then announced. More details still must be tackled including dismissing all pending lawsuits, making the National Basketball Players Association f an actual union again and voting by both the players and owners to ratify the agreement.
Key dates: Dec. 9 (free agency opens, camps open), Dec. 25 (games begin).
Owners' biggest win: Reducing the players' guarantee of basketball-related income to no higher than 51 percent after they received 57 percent under the previous collective bargaining agreement. With each BRI point worth about $40 million based on last season's revenues, that's a swing of at least $240 million annually, erasing most of what owners said were $300 million in losses last season.
Owners' biggest loss: The NFL style hard cap and non-guaranteed contracts they sought. The system is in fact similar to the old one, just with harsher luxury tax penalties to limit spending.
Players' biggest win: The preservation of the midlevel exception — though in a reduced form — and various trade rules for teams over the luxury tax, keeping the biggest market teams in the running to bid for them, even if they can't pay as much as they used to.
Players' biggest loss: Money. They're transferring more than $1 billion in salary and benefits to owners in the first six years of the deal.
What's next: Look for talks early this week on a preseason schedule, the dismissal or settlement of pending lawsuits, then movement toward getting the entire CBA written.
The Associated Press