Florida Has "The Keys" And Now "Waiters Island" Too

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Now we know for sure why Thunder GM Sam Presti pulled that $6.8 million qualifying offer for Dion Waiters, it was apparently the highest offer by a longshot for the now ex-Thunder shooting guard.

The Associated Press first reported Waiters had agreed to a deal early Monday afternoon with the Miami Heat and then shortly after Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo's The Vertical reported Waiters had signed a two year deal for a bit less than $6 million. The second year is a player option, which Waiters would likely decline and jump into free agency again.

The deal is believed to average $2.9 million per year, and shockingly low number and less than half OKC’s qualifying offer which Waiters could have accepted at any time up until Presti pulled it.

Late in the season and for the first part of the playoffs Waiters was expected to generate quite a bit of interest, some NBA reporters and even league insiders thought he could command $15-$17 million per season as part of a 3-4 year deal.

He got some looks, talked to a few teams, his hometown Philadelphis 76ers, the Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls and of course Miami.

But Waiters struggled the last three games of the Golden State series, who knows what impact if any that had on the market for a big money contract for Waiters drying up but dry up it did.

Waiters started free agency almost assured of a penthouse deal but ended up in the bargain basement.

Without his $12 plus million cap hold the Thunder now have plenty of room (about $14.4 million) under the salary cap to be able to renegotiate and extend Russell Westbrook’s current contract IF Westbrook will agree.

If he does then he’ll make almost $9 million more this coming season than his current contract calls for and he can sign for three years adding some stability to go along with flexibility.

And don’t sweat Dion’s departure. He was a much better fit with Kevin Durant on the roster. The Thunder could be more dynamic with the additions of Victor Oladipo and Alex Abrines. They’ll get more playing time without Waiters around. And of course OKC also still has Andre Roberson and Anthony Morrow at guard positions, though Roberson especially and perhaps Abrines could also see time at small forward.

By far the biggest impact of Waiters leaving OKC is now the Thunder don’t just have some wiggle room, they have some elbow room for a new Westbrook max deal.

Hopefully soon they’ll find out for sure if Russ wants to talk...or if he’d rather walk.

 

Thunder Officially Announce Alex Abrines Signing

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Word unofficially leaked out at the beginning of the week that a deal was on the way and today the Thunder officially announced the team has signed Spanish sensation Alex Abrines.

The Thunder drafted Abrines in the second round of the 2013 draft and he has remained in Spain, playing for Barcelona and is also a member of the Spanish National Team.

Abrines was given time off from the Spanish team this week to finish up details of buying out his contract with Barcelona and then signing his new deal with OKC.

The website EuroHoops.net reported on Monday that Abrines and the Thunder had agreed to a 3-year contract worth about $18 million.

Here is the official release from the Thunder:

The Oklahoma City Thunder has signed guard Alex Abrines to a multi-year contract, it was announced today by Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Abrines was originally selected by the Thunder with the 32nd overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft and this past season, Abrines appeared in 37 games with FC Barcelona where he averaged 8.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists. During EuroLeague competition Abrines shot 41.7 percent from 3-point range.

“We are pleased to welcome Alex to the Thunder organization,” said Presti. “He brings a unique blend of international experience and skill for his age. He will continue to add depth and versatility to our core of perimeter players.”

At the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, Abrines was named the EuroLeague’s Rising Star, as voted on by the league’s coaches. Additionally, Abrines received All-Spanish Liga Endesa Honorable Mention honors this past year after helping lead FC Barcelona to the Supercup and a spot in the League Finals.

“I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity to join an organization like the Oklahoma City Thunder,” said Abrines. “I look forward to meeting my teammates and contributing any way that I can as a member of the team.”

A member of the Spanish National Team, Abrines previously won a gold medal at the 2011 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship and a bronze medal at the 2012 FIBA Europe Under-20 Championship.

Before Kevin Durant left the Thunder for the Golden State Warriors it’s believed the Thunder were planning on Abrines staying in Spain for this coming season but Durant’s departure changed the timeline and it likely also changed the Thunder’s opinion on bringing back Dion Waiters.

With Abrines and Victor Oladipo now officially under contract it makes it almost a certainty Waiters won’t return. Both Oladipo and Abrines can play shooting guard, Oladipo can also handle the point and Abrines can play small forward. Waiters spent time at all three of those positions but the combined salaries of Abrines and Oladipo this season will be less than what Waiters would likely make.

The Thunder also need stay under the salary cap as they continue efforts to talk Russell Westbrook into renegotiating and extending his current contract.

 

Thunder Rescind Qualifying Offer For Waiters

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

It’s looking more and more like Dion Waiters’ time with the Oklahoma City Thunder is coming to an end after the team made him an unrestricted free agent late Monday night.

Thunder GM Sam Presti went to the last minute last month in making what’s called a qualifying offer to Waiters which made him a restricted free agent. That offer was worth about $6.8 million, a figure that’s tied to his salary last season. When teams are interested in keeping their own free agents, those that are coming off rookie contracts, the qualifying offer is made.

Waiters could have accepted that offer at any time and as time has gone along and other moves have been made it became increasingly necessary the Thunder remove that qualifying offer in order to preserve salary cap space in case Russell Westbrook is agreeable to renegotiating and extending his current contract.

For that to happen the Thunder must have room available under the salary cap to fit in Westbrook’s new salary for this coming season.

The acquisition of Victor Oladipo, who plays the same position as Waiters and the signing of Alex Abrines, who is also a wing player makes the need for Waiters less and less, especially since the combined salaries of Oladipo and Abrines would be considerably less than what a new contract for Waiters could cost.

So by making this moving now the Thunder can keep some room available for a new Westbrook deal and if that doesn’t happen could also bring Waiters back if he’s still unsigned.

By rescinding that qualifying offer the Thunder gave up their right to match any offer Waiters receives. It was mostly a “housekeeping” kind of deal if you will but it’s also another sign pointing toward an end to Waiters Island in Oklahoma City.

Thunder Signing Spanish Sensation Alex Abrines?

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

The James Harden trade has mostly been treated with derision by the national media (and some here in Oklahoma) because the Thunder sent a future All-Star to the Houston Rockets for the likes of Jeremy Lamb.

But the Thunder also received a draft pick that turned into Steven Adams, who may well become an All-Star next season and they also got a pick they used to draft Spanish sensation Alex Abrines.

Abrines has remained in Spain since that 2013 draft and was named the EuroLeague Rising Star this past season and now comes word from EuroHoops.net that the Thunder are ready to bring Abrines to the NBA.

The website is quoting sources in Europe who say the deal is done and will be for 3-years, $18 million.

There’s been a lot of speculation about Abrines’ future but he’s signed with Barcelona through 2019, his contract has a buyout option for the Thunder but recent speculation had the Thunder deciding to keep Abrines in Spain for one more season.

A lot has changed since some of that speculation, namely Kevin Durant has moved on from the Thunder to the Warriors creating a roster hole and available minutes.

Abrines came off the bench for much of the season with Barcelona and according to Basketball-Reference.com he averaged 9.3 points in 25 EuroLeague games on 46.9 percent shooting overall and 41.7 percent on threes. He also hit 83.3 percent of his free throws. He played in 27 “club” games for Barcelona (against lesser competition than the EuroLeague) where he averaged 9.9 points on 51.2 percent shooting overall and 45.0 percent from beyond the arc. He hit 90.0 percent of his free throws in those games.

Abrines is listed as 6-6 by Basketball-Reference but is shown as being 6-7 on other sites. He can play shooting guard and small forward which will come in handy on the Thunder roster.

According to EuroHoops.net the buyout for Abrines’ contract is approximately $2.2 million. The Thunder could pay up to $650,000 of that buyout and Abrines would have to take care of the rest but if the report of that $18 million deal is true that won’t be a problem.

Bringing Abrines over for this season could mean the Thunder have decided not to keep shooting guard Dion Waiters around. Waiters is a restricted free agent. He hasn’t signed an offer sheet from another team but has had discussions with several. The Thunder would be able to match any offer Waiters receives if they want.

Abrines is on the Spanish National team and is planning to play the Summer Olympics.

There’s been no comment from the Thunder.

Iguodala Admits Thunder "Should've Won A Championship"

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

“Now that we’ve got KD I can say it,” Warriors defensive stopper Andre Iguodala said Thursday during an interview on a New York City radio station, “They (the Thunder) were the best team last year in the playoffs. They were better than us, they were better than Cleveland, they were the best team in the playoffs. They should’ve won a championship.”

Ouch.

Of course most every Thunder fan already thought that and many NBA reporters and others who follow the league closely thought it too.

Still to hear Iguodala actually say it is sort of like pouring salt in a still open wound, especially now that Kevin Durant has joined the golden boys.

So how did Iguodala’s Warriors turn things around and come back from that 3-1 deficit?

“We just locked them down,” he said. I guess referring to Durant and Russell Westbrook all of a sudden going stone cold from the floor in the final six minutes of Game 6 and turning the ball over when they weren’t missing shots.

But still Iguodala maintained the Thunder “were better than us. They played us better than anyone. They played us better than Cleveland (even though the Cavs beat the Warriors in the NBA Finals) Some of the stuff they was doing it’s like...oh man we gotta play perfect.”

And Klay Thompson darn near did hitting 11 threes and taking advantage of the Thunder last minutes meltdown.

FOYE SIGNS DEAL WITH NETS

A couple of days ago we heard Thunder guard Dion Waiters was in talks with the Brooklyn Nets on an offer shoot and today came word that free agent guard Randy Foye, not Waiters, had signed a deal in Brooklyn.

Foye was an unrestricted free agent who came to OKC last season in a deal with the Denver Nuggets. He had indicated in his post-season exit interview he’d like to return to the Thunder but that was before Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka left and before Victor Oladipo arrived.

Foye is also from Newark, New Jersey and recently bought rock legend Bruce Springsteen’s mansion in Rumson, New Jersey, so going back to his old home area probably played a role too, especially since the Thunder, even if Russell Westbrook plays all next season, probably don’t have a realistic chance of winning the NBA title.

The move also frees up some more salary cap space for the Thunder removing a $5.95 million cap hold from the books.

As far as Waiters is concerned several teams have talked to him but no one has given him an offer. The Thunder’s nearly $6.8 million qualifying offer is still out there. Earlier in free agency it was thought Waiters might be able to get an offer sheet of somewhere around $10-$12 million, maybe even more, but that kind of interest has apparently dried up.

NOTHING NEW ON WESTBROOK

Despite a lot of internet chatter with reporters quoting sources who say Westbrook will likely be on the move to another NBA address soon, there’s been no solid indication the Thunder are actively pursuing a trade.

In fact sources have told The Sporting News Westbrook’s representatives have not been approached about any impending trade.

The Thunder are believed to be trying to get Westbrook to agree to a renegotiation and extension of his current contract, similar to what old teammate James Harden has done in Houston.

If the Thunder can’t get strong assurances from Westbrook that he plans to stick around longterm the thinking is he will be dealt so that Thunder GM Sam Presti isn’t left holding another empty bag if Westbrook does what Durant did.

The waiting, wondering and worrying isn’t easy but right now that’s pretty much all there is.