Jon Hamm is our resident Thunder financial expert. He’s contributed to Larry Coon’s website on the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement and often chips in with valuable information and insight on the financial side of the Thunder’s quest for a championship.
As you know, Russell Westbrook’s latest knee surgery has brought questions to all things Thunder. Hamm has some questions himself. Plus some answers.
“Assuming Sam Presti wasn’t overly pessimistic in his recovery estimate, Westbrook could miss 25 to 30 games at a minimum (though if Westbrook were miraculously back in two weeks, who would be shocked?). This has begged the question of what, if anything, the Thunder will do in the interim to solidify a bench that’s suddenly missing Reggie Jackson? There’s no replacing what Westbrook brings to the starting five and no replicating what Jackson brings off the bench, but the Thunder might opt to add some depth at a suddenly shallow position.
“According to information provided by Mark Deeks of shamsports.com, Oklahoma City is far enough under the luxury tax line to safely sign a minimum salary free agent. The pro-rated portion of the veteran’s minimum, even for a 10-plus year veteran, shouldn’t put the Thunder into the luxury tax. However, the Thunder could wait until Jan. 6 before making a transaction. This is the date that 10-day contracts can be signed. A player can be signed for up to two 10-day contracts. After the second 10-day deal, the team can sign the player for the rest of the season or allow him to become a free agent again. Oklahoma City could opt to sign one player to a pair of 10-day deals and then sign a different player to a pair of 10-day deals to get by while Westbrook recovers.
“If the Thunder are in a hurry, they could sign a player now to a non-guaranteed contract and waive him by Jan. 7. All non-guaranteed contracts become guaranteed for the rest of the season on Jan. 10, and players must clear waivers before then. After clearing waivers, the player could be re-signed to a pair of 10-day contacts as explained above.
“There is no shortage of free agent guards available, though I suspect Oklahoma City would be more concerned with fit than talent. A couple of players that immediately come to mind are former Thunder guard Royal Ivey or Tulsa 66ers guard Ben Uzoh. Ivey played for the Thunder for two seasons. Uzoh would at least be familiar with the Thunder’s offensive and defensive schemes, though he is shooting only a crisp nine percent from three-point range in the D-League.
“Trading for a replacement is certainly a possibility, though the options aren’t particularly exciting. New York’s Beno Udrih, who apparently can’t shoot well in a sleeved jersey, has been productive in the past. The Thunder could do the Nets a favor and trade for Tyshawn Taylor, a move that would actually save Brooklyn a few million dollars in luxury tax. Minnesota’s AJ Price was solid for the Wizards last season, though he’s been buried on the Timberwolves’ bench this season. Various other options exist, but none more exciting than the mundane bunch mentioned above.
“A larger team-altering deal seems unlikely, though I suppose all options are on the table. A move on that scale, however, would suggest panic. Although if Westbook suffered a setback and was ruled out for the rest of the season then by all means, let panic reign.
“Or maybe the most likely move is that the Thunder stand pat and ride this out.”