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.