It's possible, however, that in their settlement owners and players agreed to lower the annual raises for extensions, if not the total number of years as well. That could mean Westbrook, for example, might be eligible for a four-year extension with, say, 6 percent or 8 percent annual raises.
If Westbrook is allowed to sign a five-year extension, the deal would kick in before the start of the 2012-13 season and keep Westbrook in a Thunder uniform through the 2016-17 season. Durant, who led the league in scoring in each of the past two seasons, is signed through the 2015-16 season.
But it's Westbrook's deal that appears destined to be the overriding factor that will determine the remainder of the Thunder's salary cap structure and what the franchise can and cannot fit onto its books going forward.
Westbrook's rapid rise has placed him among the league's elite point guards. Last season, he averaged career highs with 21.9 points and 8.2 assists, while adding 4.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals. He ranked second in regular season triple-doubles with three.
That statistical production is in line with Chicago guard Derrick Rose, who won last year's Most Valuable Player award, and puts Westbrook in position to command something close to a maximum contract. Carrying two max contract players, however, could be costly for the Thunder and might greatly impact the franchise's ability to retain its core. With the new collective bargaining agreement increasing restrictions on spending for high-payroll teams, as well as instituting a more punitive luxury tax system, it's doubtful that a small market franchise like the Thunder can sustain a payroll that fields two max players.
If Westbrook agrees to something less than the maximum allowable salary, the Thunder could be in a good position to later ink Serge Ibaka and James Harden, both of whom are eligible for extensions to their rookie scale contracts next year.
Based on a hypothetical sample roster recently floated by the league, a franchise potentially could field a competitive team with a balanced payroll that, by 2013-14, is topped by one maximum salary ($17 million), with a second All-Star caliber player earning $14 million.
Using that formula, the Thunder might be able to comfortably tender Westbrook a deal in the five-year, $75 million range if the rules remain the same. That would give Westbrook an average salary of $15 million starting at $13 million and would be $20 million more than the extension heralded Boston point guard Rajon Rondo received.
Under that scenario, however, the Thunder would have to commit to being a big-spending team. Last season, only five teams spent at least $75 million, or the projected tax level in two years, which the league's sample roster proposed franchises spend. The Thunder's payroll last season was slightly more than $58 million, and it likely will be slightly less this year.
But, at last, the rampant questions about Westbrook's future are about to have some real answers.