Thunder: Russell Westbrook's paycheck might mirror his development as a player

Thunder point guard rates as one of NBA's top tier players
BY DARNELL MAYBERRY, Staff Writer, dmayberry@opubco.com Published: December 7, 2011

Sam Presti on Wednesday weighed in on a topic that remains a debate around only a few office water coolers.

Where does Russell Westbrook rank among the NBA's best point guards?

“He's among the top tier of guys,” said Presti, the Oklahoma City Thunder general manager. “No question about it.”

The question is will Westbrook now be paid like it.

Teams will be permitted to begin signing free agents and making trades on Friday afternoon, according to reports. With Westbrook now entering his fourth season, he is currently eligible to receive a contract extension.

Presti and the entire Thunder organization repeatedly have made it clear how they feel about Westbrook. “Everybody knows how we feel about him as a player,” Presti said at his annual preseason news conference Wednesday. “But I think equally as important is him as a person. He has evolved on a year-to-year basis, and a big part of that is because of the real disciplined approach he's taken with his own development and the work that our coaches have done.”

But it's unclear how soon the two sides might strike a deal.

The NBA's new collective bargaining agreement has yet to be ratified, which means GMs and agents still aren't entirely sure what the new rules will look like. Based on that alone, it probably isn't realistic to expect Westbrook and the Thunder to swiftly come to terms on a new deal like Kevin Durant did last summer.

In the event that an extension is not hammered out, however, Westbrook will be a restricted free agent next summer and the Thunder would have the right to match any offer another team presents. Under the old rules, the Thunder would have had until Oct. 31 to reach a deal before Westbrook would have become a free agent. Now, it's unclear when the new deadline might be.

All that is obvious at this point is Westbrook's status as one of the game's next great point guards. And no matter what, he figures to soon be paid like it.

Where that figure might come in, though, remains a mystery. Comparing Westbrook to the league's other young elite point guards can only get you so far. In all likelihood, the new CBA will mean Westbrook's deal will be completely different, possibly even to the point that any comparison to previous contracts would be an apples-to-oranges association.

It's been reported that the new CBA will decrease extensions from five years with annual raises of 10.5 percent to four years with maximum raises of 7.5 percent. So a new deal for Westbrook appears destined to be vastly different from, for instance, Chris Paul's extension at the same point in his career.

But just like the old agreement, there are quite a few clauses that could change things. It also has been reported that teams will have the ability to designate one player to be eligible for a five-year contract at the maximum allowable salary. Additionally, the new rules are expected to include a provision called the “Derrick Rose rule” that allows for further compensation beyond a typical extension to a rookie scale contract.

Under that provision, a player coming off a rookie scale contract could receive up to 30 percent of the salary cap if he has been named an All-Star starter twice, an All-NBA First, Second or Third member twice or the league MVP once. Under the old rules, players in this position could qualify only for 25 percent of the salary cap.



POINT GUARD COMPARISON

A look at the production of the NBA's top young point guards after their third seasons.

Derrick Rose

Age: 22; Games: 240; Games started: 239

Points per game: 20.9; Rebounds per game: 3.9; Assists per game: 6.7

Field-goal percentage: 46.8; 3-point percentage: 30.9; free-throw percentage: 81.5; minutes per game: 37.1

Contract status: Entering the fourth year of his rookie scale contract and is now eligible for an extension.

Chris Paul

Age: 22; Games: 222; Games started: 222

Points per game: 18.2; Rebounds per game: 4.5; Assists per game: 9.5

Field-goal %: 45.6; 3-point %: 33.7; free-throw %: 84.0; minutes per game: 36.8

Contract status: Signed a three-year deal in 2008 with an option for a fourth. The three-year total was for $44.8 million. The fourth year would bring the total to $62.6 million.

Russell Westbrook

Age: 22; Games: 246; Games started: 229

Points per game: 17.8; Rebounds per game: 4.8; Assists per game: 7.1

Field-goal %: 42.1; 3-point %: 27.4; free-throw %: 81.6; minutes per game: 33.9

Contract status: Entering the fourth year of his rookie scale contract and is now eligible for an extension.

Deron Williams

Age: 23; games played: 242; games started: 209

Points per game: 15.3; Rebounds per game: 2.9; Assists per game: 8.1

Field-goal %: 46.6; 3-point %: 37.4; free-throw %: 77.4; minutes per game: 34.4

Contract status: Signed a three-year deal in 2008 with an option for a fourth. The three-year total was for $44.8 million. The fourth year would bring the total to $62.6 million.

Raymond Felton

Age: 23; games played: 237; games started: 208

Points per game: 13.4; Rebounds per game: 3.2; Assists per game: 6.6

Field-goal %: 39.6; 3-point %: 32.7; free-throw %: 77.8; minutes per game: 34.6

Contract status: Signed a two-year, $15 million contract with New York as an unrestricted free agent after playing his last season in Charlotte on the qualifying offer from his original rookie scale contract.

Mike Conley

Age: 22; Games played: 215; games started: 187

Points per game: 10.9; Rebound per game: 2.8; Assists per game: 4.7

Field-goal %: 44.0; 3-point %: 38.5; free-throw %: 76.9; minutes per game: 30.0

Contract status: Signed a five-year, $40 million extension in 2010.

Rajon Rondo

Age: 22; games played: 235; games started: 182

Points per game: 9.7; Rebounds per game: 4.4; Assists per game: 5.7

Field-goal %: 48.0; 3-point %: 27.1; free-throw %: 63.5; minutes per game: 28.8

Contract status: Signed a five-year deal for $55 million in 2009.

Devin Harris

Age: 23; games played: 212; games started: 84

Points per game: 8.5; Rebounds per game: 2.0; Assists per game: 3.0

Field-goal %: 46.8; 3-point %: 31.2; free-throw %: 77.0; minutes per game: 21.4

Contract status: Signed a five-year, $43 million in 2007.

Source: Basketball-reference.com, media reports

Trending Now


AROUND THE WEB

  1. 1
    Newspaper editor who used 'gaystapo' claims religious discrimination
  2. 2
    Reporter Attempts To Eat Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's Absurd 7 Meal Diet
  3. 3
    232 Teeth Removed From Boy's Mouth
  4. 4
    Duran Duran Sues Duran Duran Fan Club
  5. 5
    Dogs Get Jealous Like Us
+ show more