The NBA’s free agency period starts Monday, and the Thunder has a roster spot available, since Kevin Martin, Derek Fisher and Ronnie Brewer all were unrestricted free agents, and the Thunder has added just two players – first-round draft picks Steven Adams and Andre Roberson. Our man Darnell Mayberry wrote for the Monday Oklahoman about the Thunder’s free agency status. You can read that story here.
If the Thunder wants to avoid going over the luxury tax threshold of a projected $71.6 million, and the Thunder absolutely does, then it has the salary space to add only a minimum-wage free agent. That is, unless, the Thunder lets go of one of its players with a non-guaranteed contract – Hasheem Thabeet, Daniel Orton or DeAndre Liggins.
Of that trio, Orton is the most likely to be cut, since with the addition of Adams, the Thunder now has four centers on the roster.
Using the hoopsworld data on salaries, the Thunder has $70.4 million committed for 2013-14, if it keeps Thabeet, Orton or Liggins. They each make around $1 million (Thabeet a little more, the others a little less).
So the Thunder could keep all its current players, signing a veteran to a minimum-wage contract and be charged only $854,389 against the salary cap and luxury tax. To discourage teams from signing only younger players, NBA rules charge teams only the amount for second-year players when they sign a veteran to a minimum-wage contract.
Thus the Thunder seems to have two options in free agency:
1) A veteran minimum-wage contract;
2) Cut a player who has a non-guaranteed contract and sign a veteran to a contract not much above minimum wage. Minimum wage for six-year veterans is $1.106 million. Minimum wage for 10-year veterans is $1.399 million, so there’s not a big difference.
The Thunder clearly could use a veteran shooter/scorer, a wing player who could help second-year pro Jeremy Lamb with the duties that in the past have been provided by James Harden and Kevin Martin. The Thunder can’t afford such a player in 2013-14, as it seeks to avoid the luxury tax threshold that it is sure to bust in 2014-15 and 2015-16. So OKC will have to go the economic route this free agency.
Who’s available? Here are some possibilities:
* Bringing back Derek Fisher is the most likely move. The Thunder needs a third-team point guard, anyway, and Fisher could fill both roles. He largely did that each of the last two stretch runs, joining the Thunder late in the regular season in both 2011-12 and 2012-13, playing for a minimum salary.
* Anthony Morrow: Career 42-percent 3-point shooter. Journeyman made $4 million last season but never has reached the playoffs.
* Francisco Garcia and Carlos Delfino: Each had their moments for the Rockets in the playoff series against OKC. Both figure to cost too much – Garcia made $6.1 million last season, Delfino $3 million – but both were decent shooters. Garcia .386 from 3-point range, Delfino .375.
* Randy Foye has started 286 games over his seven-year NBA career but made the playoffs only with the Clippers, in 2012. He made $2.5 million last season with Utah. Foye shot 39.7 percent from 3-point range last season. Might he be willing to play for minimum wage?
* Matt Barnes played for minimum wage for the Clippers last season. He’s a little bit of a loose cannon, but he can score in bunches. Would the Thunder be interested at a minimum wage?
* Mike Dunleavy has played 11 NBA seasons and remains a solid shooter; 42.8 percent from 3-point range last season for Milwaukee, who paid him $3.75 million. Eleven years in the league, and Dunleavy has played nine playoff games. Could he sign up for minimum wage and what promises to be a deep playoff run?
* Players like J.J. Redick, Kyle Korver, Marco Belinelli and Wayne Ellington figure to be enough in demand that they can get bigger deals.
* Players like O.J. Mayo and Nick Young are talented enough to help the Thunder, but character issues make the Thunder uninterested.
* Veterans like Jerry Stackhouse and Leandro Barbosa don’t have enough left to really help the Thunder.
* Old pal Daequan Cook is free again, after being traded to Houston in the James Harden deal last October. He’s probably not a target. The Thunder is more likely to bring back Royal Ivey, also a free agent, who could be the No. 3 point guard.
* Xavier Henry, the pride of PutnamCity, is a free agent but hasn’t shown enough to warrant much interest from his hometown team.
Those are a few possibilities. The Thunder could go the point guard route. Or the Thunder could sign no one.