Thunder Payroll Edging Up Toward $130 Million

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

The national media loves to slam Thunder ownership for being "cheap" but the ownership group has not shied away from going into the luxury tax when the team has a chance to make a long playoff run.

That appears to be the case again after GM Sam Presti brought in 4-time All-Star Paul George to be Russell Westbrook's new running mate.

Free agent deals quickly followed with Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton signing on and restricted free agent Andre Roberson agreeing to re-up with OKC for 3 years and $30 million.

We also heard on Friday 15-year veteran Nick Collison would be returning, agreeing to a 1-year deal likely for the veterans' minimum which in Collison's case would be about $2.3 million.

Add all that up, plus the contracts already in place, and the Thunder are looking at a payroll for the 2017-18 season of about $127.9 million.

The team still has some work to do, needing to get a contract signed with 1st round draft pick Terrance Ferguson which will come in around $1.5 million (give or take a couple hundred thousand bucks).

That deal would run the team total up to $129.4 million or about $10 million over the luxury tax line and $30 million above the salary cap.

The tax remember won't be officially calculated unto the end of the regular season and things could change drastically be then.

They're sure to change a little in the next several weeks.

The Thunder and backup point guard Semaj Christon have agreed to push the deadline for guaranteeing his $1.3 million salary for this coming season into training camp.

And there is a chance the team could waive small forward Kyle Singler and then stretch the approximately $9.5 million he's owed over 7 years, reducing the salary cap hit to much more manageable numbers. The deadline to do that is August 31st.

If Singler happens to be included in a trade the numbers would be reduced even more.

The Thunder also have the chance to name a couple of 2-way players, guys who can go back and forth between the OKC Blue of the NBA's G-League and the Thunder while not being included on the official 15-man Thunder roster.

Players chosen for this can't spend more than 45 days with the NBA team (or they will have to be signed to an NBA contract).

One candidate the Thunder are almost surely considering for this is center Dakari Johnson. He's played well in Summer League the last two summers and made the then D-League All-Star team last season.

So there are still a lot of potential moves on the table.





Thunder Introduce Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson

Thunder GM Sam Presti, guard Raymond Felton, forward Patrick Patterson and head coach Billy Donovan speak with reporters Wednesday at Oklahoma City's Aloft Hotel. (Photo By Randy Renner/

Thunder GM Sam Presti, guard Raymond Felton, forward Patrick Patterson and head coach Billy Donovan speak with reporters Wednesday at Oklahoma City's Aloft Hotel. (Photo By Randy Renner/

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Thunder free agent acquisitions Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson spoke with reporters for about 20 minutes late this morning at OKC's Aloft Hotel and both men seem to fit in well.

They want to win and they believe a Thunder squad led by the NBA's Most Valuable Player and sprinkled with some young talent provides them a great opportunity.

Patterson signed for less money to join the Thunder than could have been available from other teams. Asked why he chose to come to the Thunder instead of those other teams his answer was simple and to the point.

"The opportunity to win," he said. "The opportunity to compete for a championship and be with a team that's just as hungry as I am."

Patterson, who's played in Houston and Toronto, wanted to play alongside "all-stars and superstars" which he had for the most part with the Rockets and Raptors (James Harden and DeMar DeRozen) will again with the Thunder. 

Patterson signed a 3-year deal for the mid-level exception, about $5.2 million per season, which is actually even less than he made last season. But again for him it's not all about the money or the superstars, some of it has to do with the coach. Billy Donovan recruited him to play at Florida but Patterson decided on Kentucky instead but it was close since Billy D spent a lot of time in Patterson's Huntington, West Virginia, hometown.

"Him coming to my house hanging out with me and my family. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was good times. It was a lot of fun. Something I cherish. It's very good, and cool to be reunited again," Patterson said.

Felton, who's been in the league for 12 seasons agreed to play here for the veteran's minimum, $2.3 million for his length of service. It's about winning for him too.

"Being a 12-year guy, you just want to put yourself in a situation where you're going to win," he said. "Put yourself in a situation where you've got a chance to try to play for something special, and that's to win a ring."

The Thunder probably won't win a ring this coming season but the addition of Felton, who should stabilize the second unit, and Patterson who brings solid defense and can stretch the floor, the Thunder should be able to get closer.

And then of course there's Paul George.

He will speak to the media Wednesday evening but both Patterson and Felton already know his game pretty well.

"He can create his own shot, make guys better," Felton said of the 4-time All-Star. "He plays on both ends of the court and honestly, that's what wins championships. You've got to be able to get stops. You've got to be able to play defense, and he's a guy who plays on both ends of the court. He's a guy that if you need to get a bucket, he can go get it for you."

"From what I've seen, he's one of the hardest workers in the league," Patterson added. "And one thing that I admire the most about him is his vocal leadership. Whether they're down, whether they're up, no matter what the circumstances are, he's always talking, he's always active and always energetic, and I've always admired that about him."

It should be an interesting training camp to see this team grow together during training camp. After that who knows what could happen.

Thunder Officially Announce Paul George Trade

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

There's still no welcome news conference scheduled for the arrival of 4-time All Star Paul George but the Thunder have made his acquisition official.

Here is the press release sent out by the team on Thursday.

OKLAHOMA CITY, July 6, 2017 – The Oklahoma City Thunder has acquired forward Paul George from the Indiana Pacers in exchange for guard Victor Oladipo and forward Domantas Sabonis, Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti announced today.   

George, (6-9, 220), averaged a career-high 23.7 points on a career-best 46.1 percent (622-of-1348 FG) shooting from the field and 39.3 percent (195-of-496 3FG) from long distance, 6.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.59 steals and 35.9 minutes in 75 games (all starts) with Indiana during the 2016-17 season.  

“We are excited to welcome Paul George to the Thunder family and the Oklahoma City community,” said Presti. “Paul is a tremendous fit for our organization on and off the floor. He represents all the positive traits of an elite competitor, and we have long admired his relentless pursuit to improve and his ability to impact on-court success. His skill set is dynamic and at the forefront of the evolution of the game, yet he combines this with traditional and historical values and will. We are fortunate to have an incredibly unique player wear the Thunder Blue and know he will help us as we continue to build the legacy of the Thunder in real time.”  

The four-time All-Star owns career averages of 18.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.65 steals and 32.8 minutes in 448 games (400 starts) over seven seasons with the Pacers. He was the winner of the 2012-13 Most Improved Player Award, has earned All-NBA Third Team honors three times and has been named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team once and All-Defensive Second Team twice.  

Selected 10th overall by Indiana in the 2010 NBA Draft, George guided the Pacers to the playoffs in each of the six seasons in which he appeared in 60 or more games and he helped lead Indiana to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals in 2012-13 and 2013-14. George owns career playoff averages of 19.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.72 steals in 43.0 minutes in 65 games (all starts).  

The Fresno State product was a member of the 2016 U.S. Men’s National Team which took Gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. He appeared in all eight games (two starts) and averaged 11.3 points (fourth on team), 4.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.50 steals (first on team).   

Victor Oladipo appeared in 67 games (all starts) for Oklahoma City during the 2016-17 season and averaged 15.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 33.2 minutes.  

Domantas Sabonis saw action in 81 games (66 starts) during his rookie season with the Thunder in which he averaged 5.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.0 assist in 20.1 minutes.

The Thunder still have not officially announced the signings of free agent forward Patrick Patterson nor of restricted free agent Andre Roberson but there aren't believed to be any issues with either.


Roberson Ready To Re-Up With Thunder

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Just as we've been saying here and others have been saying in other places Andre Roberson won't be leaving Oklahoma City...late last night ESPN reported Roberson and the Thunder had agreed to a 3-year, $30 million contract extension.

That deal and the others Sam Presti has put together the last few days can all become official today. The NBA's July moratorium ends at 11am Oklahoma time.

Roberson can then sign his new contract, Patrick Patterson can sign his 3-year, $16.4 million free agent deal and the trade between OKC and Indiana bringing 4-time All-Star Paul George to the Thunder and sending Victor Oladipo and Domas Sabonis to the Pacers can also become official.

As those new contracts go cha-ching at a big cash register somewhere the Thunder's payroll for next season will balloon to $125.1 million.

That's about $26 million over the salary cap and almost $6 million above the luxury tax line, which if it remains in that area will incur an $8.9 million penalty, meaning the small market Thunder will be on the hook for $134 million.

But if you fret these types of things, don't.

The tax bills aren't tallied until the end of the regular season giving the Thunder plenty of time to adjust the roster and get back under the tax line, though if things go really well this season, we're told team management will be ready to fork over the extra cash.

And for now the Thunder are still in a spending mood. They're still working on a deal that could net them a veteran point guard to backup Russell Westbrook.

And speaking of Russ, he flew back in to OKC last night. He's hosting his basketball camp for kids over the next couple of days and also has a camp in Tulsa.

Just because he's back in town doesn't mean he'll sign that fat new contract the Thunder put in front of him. He may, but he may not, at least not right away.

So far there are no signs that Westbrook is unhappy in Oklahoma City or unhappy with the organization.

In fact Presti has given him some really big reasons the last few days to be excited about the future.

Presti probably already knows how Russ will play this...Thunder fans though, mostly because of what happened with Kevin Durant about this time a year ago, might be starting to feel a little queasy.

The best remedy?

Take a shot or two of pepto and then take a look at the slogan on that tee-shirt you either have or have at least seen around town.

The one that says "In Russ...We Trust."