Which means the Thunder is drawing awfully near to the luxury tax threshold, and the Thunder will do whatever necessary to avoid going into the luxury tax.
Next season, 2014-15, the Thunder likely is headed for the luxury tax. Which is why the Thunder wants to avoid it this coming season.
The luxury tax threshold has been set at $71.748 million for the 2013-14 season. The Thunder has $67.995 million guaranteed in salary, according to hoopsworld.com. Counting the three non-guaranteed contracts (Thabeet, Liggins and Daniel Orton), the Thunder payroll goes up to $70.995 million.
But the Thunder can’t stand pat. OKC has only two point guards on the roster, Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson. A third point guard is essential. Signing a point guard to a minimum contract would cost the Thunder $788,872 against the tax.
Taking the Thunder’s current 14 and adding a minimum-salary point guard would put the OKC payroll at $71.784 million — $36,000 over the threshold. So no way are these current 14 guys going to stick.
Orton likely is the odd man out. He’s due to be paid just $916,099 in 2013-14, and Orton’s Summer League performance last week was impressive.
But Orton is one of four centers on the Thunder roster. In the modern NBA, you don’t need four centers. Heck, in the old NBA, you didn’t need four centers, not when you’ve got Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison, too.
So look for the Thunder to try to trade Orton. Probably a second-round draft pick is all OKC could get for him, but that’s better than nothing, which is what the Thunder will get if it has to waive him.
It’s possible the Thunder could trade or cut Orton and sign two players in his stead – both at minimum salaries. That would drop the Thunder just below the luxury tax threshold.
Or the Thunder could sign a third-team point guard and keep the 15th roster spot open for a late-season acquisition, much like it has done with Derek Fisher the last two seasons.
And I guess it’s possible the Thunder keeps second-round pick Grant Jerrett, though that’s unlikely.
Just remember. The Thunder needs a third point guard, but the Thunder also is precariously close to the luxury tax, so it must tread lightly.