Within the NBA's rookie pay scale, teams are given enough leeway to sign their first-rounders to between 80 percent and 120 percent of their pick's suggested value.
Almost always, rookies are quickly offered and sign near the maximum, like Steven Adams did last week, reaching a deal with the Thunder that will pay him $2.09 million next season, nearly $400,000 more than the suggested value of the 12th pick.
So that's why it was a bit surprising when, late last week, word also surfaced that the Thunder brass had lowballed its other first-round pick, signing Andre Roberson to only 80 percent of his first-year value.
The 2013-14 pay scale suggests the 26th pick make $925,700 next season. Its maximum value is around $1.1 million. But Roberson will only bring in $740,560.
On the surface, the move is a frugal one. Some have even grumbled that it was cheap, a small market franchise going against standard NBA thinking to save a couple hundred thousand dollars.
But in the grand scheme, it's far more complicated and financially beneficial than that. Because this minor move, along with a few others during this penny-pinching offseason, may end up saving OKC's only professional franchise millions down the road.
That can all be traced back to the new collective bargaining agreement and, particularly, the luxury tax's ‘repeat offender' clause, which includes a substantial extra penalty to teams who have hit the tax three straight seasons.
So despite recent maneuvers that would suggest otherwise, Thunder management isn't opposed to dipping into the tax. They're just concerned about avoiding it this year.
Because starting next season and for the foreseeable future, with the escalating contracts of its star players, OKC is all but guaranteed to violate that threshold.
So if they can find a way to escape it in 2013-14, and despite being about $500,000 away it seems like they are desperately determined to do so, the franchise's “repeat offender” clock will be pushed back a year.
And that means, for example, a tax bill three years from now that could have cost them, say, $10 million, will only cost $6 million.
And for a cash-conscious small market franchise (who will pay Roberson 120 percent his suggested value starting in year two of his contract), that's a big deal.