The most open and shut order of business in the NBA this summer rests in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder and Kevin Durant are expected to agree on a contract extension soon after July 1.
Even the last shred of suspense — whether Durant will ink a short-term contract or long-term deal — becomes somewhat predictable when both the business ramifications and the track record of the man who'll handle Durant's affairs are taken into account.
Given those two factors, as well as Durant's frequently stated preference to remain in OKC as long as possible, it appears likely that the Thunder's franchise player will commit to a five-year deal, the maximum allowable years as set by the league's collective bargaining agreement.
“Kevin expects to have an opportunity to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder and continue to play,” said Durant's agent, Aaron Goodwin. “And he fully believes that that opportunity should be a maximum opportunity, as do I.
“Kevin has surely put himself in position, by becoming a First-Team All-NBA player, by leading his team to the playoffs and the great run that they had, to be deserving of that.”
Under league rules, the Thunder can begin negotiating an extension at 11 p.m. CST on July 1. The contract cannot be signed, however, until July 8.
The value of Durant's deal will not be known until next July, when the salary cap for the 2011-12 season is set. But under current projections for the 2010-11 season, Durant is in line for a contract in the neighborhood of $84.85 million over the life of a five-year deal. His first-year salary in the new deal, which would begin for the 2011-12 season, would be worth close about $14 million based on projections of a $56.1 million salary cap in 2010-11.
With maximum allowable 10.5 percent raises, Durant's salary would increase to $15.4 million in Year Two, $16.9 million in Year Three, $18.4 million in Year Four and $19.9 million in the fifth and final season.
It's the final season that is most significant and what makes it likely Durant accepts a five-year deal.
Although a new collective bargaining agreement could drastically alter the way deals are done, Durant could receive a much larger payday if the rules aren't greatly different. Current CBA rules prohibit players to re-sign for 105 percent of their previous year's salary, or 30 percent of the salary cap.
While completely hypothetical at this point, Durant's second contract could start in the neighborhood of $20.9 million with annual raises of $2.2 million over five years. A shorter deal of, say, three years would give Durant a lower number to start from when his extension runs out.
This summer's most highly-coveted free agents, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, have lost out on money and will continue to wherever it is that they sign this summer because they agreed to three-year deals with player options for a fourth season.
Orlando's Dwight Howard, on the other hand, signed a five-year deal in 2007 and is slated to earn $19.2 million in the final year of his contract in 2012-13. The last year of Howard's deal is also a player's option.
Goodwin also represented Howard during his extension.
“We believe that the Oklahoma City Thunder recognizes Kevin's value,” Goodwin said. “And I don't think it's going to be hard to come to some sort of agreement and keep things moving.”