Oklahoma City Thunder: A fan wonders about a bleak future
I keep getting great emails from readers about the Thunder’s payroll cap situation. Here’s another one, from Tom McLain, who asked a series of excellent questions.
Tom: “I very much appreciate your explanation of the salary cap in ‘Thunder Won’t Have an Easy Time of Keeping This Core Together.’ (My Sunday column; which you can read here.)
“Here’s my question based on this paragraph: ‘Except the new luxury tax is a killer. The old luxury tax had a straight 1:1 ratio. Go $5 million over the payroll cap, pay a $5 million tax to the league, to be shared by non-violators.’
“‘To be shared by non-violators” is intriguing to me. This sounds like anyone who violates the salary cap is out of the money-receiving pool of luxury tax revenue dividends. If I owned an NBA team and was more concerned about remaining solvent or making a few dollars, I could remain a ‘non-violator’ and pocket some serious money. Why wouldn’t some NBA owners be motivated by this?
“Thus I see a dynamic for large-market, big-ego NBA owners spending crazily over the salary cap to win championships. And I see a dynamic of smaller-market, regular-ego NBA owners who will stay under the salary cap (knowing full well that they will never bring a championship to their city). Perennial also-rans.
“Does this resonate as true to you? It is hard for me to imagine OKC and Oklahoma staying in love with the Thunder for the long run. Oklahomans are really kind of spoiled and want success quickly. Four years to get into the championship game is kind of freakish success. The honeymoon will most likely end in perhaps five to 10 years. Clay Bennett will either sell the team to recoup his initial investment or demand that the team at least break even which means cutting expenses and no chance for championships.”
Several good questions in there, so let’s get right to it.
The scenario Tom suggests has caused some concern within the league. There are a couple of issues.
* The luxury tax is so severe, that it is hoped that even the likes of the Lakers don’t bust the cap by a bunch. That number I threw out — $13 million over in Year 3 would cause a franchise to pay $36.75 million in taxes — is staggering. Not even the excessively rich are fired up about that, and historically, championship teams have gone over the cap by more than $13 million. So we’ll see how much over certain owners are willing to go.
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