How much money should the Thunder offer Jeff Green? That’s one of the main topics on the minds of Thunder fans this off-season and figures to be the most pressing question on general manager Sam Presti’s plate this summer.
But it’s a question Presti might not have to answer. The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement allows Green and Kevin Durant to sign extensions to their rookie-scale contracts in July, with negotiations permitted to begin on July 1. While Durant undoubtedly will receive a maximum-allowed deal, Green’s earning power looms as the organization’s greatest unknown. If a deal between Green and the Thunder isn’t reached before Oct. 31, Green will become a restricted free agent after the 2010-11 season. And it’s possible, perhaps even probable, we will see that exact scenario play out. By holding off on an extension this summer and allowing Green to become a restricted free agent next summer, the Thunder would set into motion two significant elements that could ultimately make the move a smart play. OKC would retain the right to match any offer sheet Green receives from another team next summer. And the Thunder would allow the market to establish Green’s value, rather than potentially overpaying or even low-balling one of its core players. It’s become the NBA’s latest trend, triggered by the combination of fewer top-flight, first-round talents in recent years and a downtrodden economy. An all-time low five players from the 2006 draft class — Brandon Roy, Andrea Bargnani, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo and Thabo Sefolosha — received extensions before the start of their fourth seasons last fall. The 2005 draft class saw just seven players sign extensions before their Oct. 31, 2008, deadlines and avoid restricted free agency. This season, after a breakthrough sophomore campaign, Green did little to reveal just what kind of player he really is.