Oklahoma City Thunder

Thunder To Sign Trey Burke

The Thunder are putting the finishing touches on a deal with free agent point guard Trey Burke, tweets Shams Charania of The Vertical.

The 24-year-old has been looking for an opportunity since the Wizards refused to extend him a qualifying offer after the end of last season. Burke spent one year in Washington after being acquired in a trade with the Jazz, averaging 5.0 points and 1.8 assists in 57 games. He was the primary backup to John Wall for much of the season, but fell out of the rotation after Washington signed Brandon Jennings in February.

Burke attended a workout for the Timberwolves earlier this month and a free agent mini-camp with the Bucks in late August. He received interest from the Knicks as well.

If Burke makes the Oklahoma City roster, he will compete with newly signed Raymond Felton to be a veteran backup to Russell Westbrook.

Latest On The Carmelo Anthony Trade

Carmelo Anthony recently added the Thunder to the list of teams he would waive his no-trade clause to join, but Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti and New York GM Scott Perry had been discussing a deal for weeks, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Talks intensified over the last 24 hours before the agreement was reached earlier today. Anthony had reportedly insisted for most of the summer that he would only go to Houston, but he expanded that list this week to include the Thunder and Cavaliers.

The deal will be formally completed Monday, and Oklahoma City expects to have Anthony on hand when training camp begins Tuesday.

More has emerged since the trade was announced:

  • Sources tell ESPN’s Ian Begley that Anthony believed yesterday there was a good chance he was headed to Cleveland (Twitter link). Anthony has a tight relationship with LeBron James, and the Cavaliers could use another scorer while Isaiah Thomas is sidelined with a hip injury.
  • The addition of Anthony could put the Thunder in the running to sign Dwyane Wade once he reaches a buyout with the Bulls, tweets Chris Mannix of the Vertical. Wade probably wouldn’t start in Oklahoma City and the team can’t offer much money, but he may be willing to accept a sixth man role to take another shot at a ring beside Anthony, Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
  • Presti should be lauded for rebuilding the Thunder without surrendering a first-round pick, tweets Michael Lee of The Vertical. OKC send Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana in exchange for George, then shipped Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a 2018 second-rounder to the Knicks to get Anthony. The Thunder already owe their 2018 first-round pick to Minnesota (lottery protected) and another first-rounder to Orlando two years later.
  • Oklahoma City had a secret weapon, Lee adds, in vice president and assistant GM Troy Weaver, who helped recruit Anthony when he was an assistant coach at Syracuse (Twitter link).
  • The trade establishes the Thunder as the greatest threat to the Warriors’ dominance in the West, writes Dieter Kurtenbach of The San Jose Mercury News. He sees Anthony stepping into a much better role as a complementary stretch four in Oklahoma City, rather than a primary scorer in New York. OKC added free agent Patrick Patterson this summer and re-signed defensive ace Andre Roberson and may now have the pieces to challenge Golden State in a seven-game series.
  • ESPN’s Kevin Pelton graded the deal, giving the Thunder an A and the Knicks a D. Kanter and McDermott were both defensive liabilities, Pelton states, and the new alignment gives Oklahoma City a small-ball lineup that matches up much better with the Warriors. The Knicks didn’t take on any long-term contracts, but they also didn’t fill any pressing needs unless McDermott develops into a reliable wing scorer. Pelton expects New York to explore the trade market for Kanter before the February deadline.
  • Oklahoma City used two key pieces from the Bulls to pull off today’s deal, and Chicago doesn’t have much in return, writes Scott Krinch of CSNChicago. McDermott and the 2018 second-rounder that was shipped to the Knicks both came to OKC in a February trade that sent Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow to the Bulls. Lauvergne and Morrow left as free agents over the offseason, and Payne will miss three to four months after foot surgery.
  • Kanter posted a message on Twitter, thanking the fans and management in Oklahoma City and saying, “Please beat the Warriors for me.”

Knicks Agree To Trade Carmelo Anthony To Thunder

The Knicks have reached an agreement with the Thunder that will send Carmelo Anthony to Oklahoma City, reports Adrian Wojanrowski of ESPN (Twitter links). According to Wojnarowski, New York will receive Doug McDermott and Enes Kanter in the deal, along with a draft pick. Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link) indicates that pick will be the Bulls’ 2018 second-rounder.CarmeloAnthony vertical

The trade call will officially take place Monday, Wojnarowski adds, as Russell Westbrook and Paul George were successful in their lobbying efforts to get Anthony to waive his no-trade clause for the Thunder (Twitter link). Carmelo also has a relationship with top Thunder executive Troy Weaver, who recruited him to Syracuse a decade and a half ago.

Anthony has agreed to waive his $8.1MM trade kicker, since the deal wouldn’t have worked otherwise, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). Anthony will retain his no-trade clause with the Thunder (Twitter link). Taking on his $26,243,760 salary will increase OKC’s projected luxury tax payment by $12.4MM, up to a total of $27.8MM (Twitter link).

The Knicks were at the maximum of 20 players before the trade, so a roster move will have to be made by Monday in order to make room for the extra incoming player. New York has five non-guaranteed players coming to camp, so one of them will likely be waived.

The Knicks will incur Kanter’s 15% trade bonus of $2.68MM, which pushes his cap hit for this season to $20.56MM (Twitter link). Kanter also has an $18.6MM player option for 2018/19 — his kicker doesn’t apply to that salary since trade bonuses don’t affect team or player option years. As for McDermott, he’s making $3.3MM in the final year of his rookie contract and is eligible to receive an extension until October 16. He’ll be on track to become a restricted free agent next summer if no agreement can be reached this year.

The Thunder obviously made the move with an eye toward winning this season, but it creates a fascinating scenario for the future of the franchise. Anthony, Westbrook and George are all currently eligible to become unrestricted free agents next summer, so this could be a one-year experiment.

Of course, the Thunder currently have an extension offer on the table for Westbrook, and Anthony has a lucrative player option for 2018/19, so there’s no guarantee there will be a mass exodus out of OKC after this season. Still, it would be difficult financially to retain all three players — Marks estimates the cost of keeping all three would bring the Oklahoma City payroll to $157MM with an additional $143MM in taxes (Twitter link).

For the Knicks, it closes a long chapter in their troubled relationship with Anthony, who was hailed as a franchise savior when he was acquired from the Nuggets in 2011. He never delivered the playoff success that was expected and became the target of public criticism from former team president Phil Jackson. Having expressed a desire to go to the Rockets for most of the 2017 offseason, Anthony expanded his list of preferred teams this week, adding Cleveland and Oklahoma City, which allowed the Knicks to get something done.

New York has now fully committed to the rebuilding project that the new management team outlined when it took over. The Knicks were reluctant to trade Anthony to the Cavaliers because they wanted him out of the Eastern Conference, according to TNT’s David Aldridge (Twitter link), although it’s hard to understand why, giving the team’s remote playoff chances. Even though Jackson was dismissed this summer, hard feelings with Carmelo remained and the organization wanted a fresh start (Twitter link).

The trade of Anthony represents the culmination of an eventful offseason that saw many of the East’s best players join new clubs. Anthony is the sixth player from 2017’s Eastern Conference All-Star squad to change teams, following in the footsteps of George, Jimmy Butler, Paul Millsap, Isaiah Thomas, and Kyrie Irving. Anthony, George, Butler, and Millsap all moved over to the Western Conference.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Durant Apologizes; Abrines Waiting To Be Cleared

  • Appearing at a tech conference in San Francisco this week, Kevin Durant expressed remorse for the tweets sent from his Twitter account earlier this week, calling them “idiotic” and “childish,” as Mark Medina of The Bay Area News Group details. The messages, in which Durant was critical of his former Thunder teammates and head coach Billy Donovan, drew a response from Enes Kanter. According to Andrew Joseph of USA Today, Kanter said he wasn’t mad about the tweets, but said it was “really sad” to see Durant express those views about an organization that “gave everything to him.”
  • After injuring his knee this summer, Alex Abrines is pain-free and feels like he can do “everything” on the court, but he’s still waiting to receive full clearance from the Thunder, as Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman details.

NBA Teams That Can’t Offer More Than The Minimum

At this point in the NBA offseason, most free agents who remain on the open market will have to settle for minimum salary contracts, if they receive an NBA offer at all.

There are some exceptions, particularly on the restricted free agent market, where Mason Plumlee just signed a three-year, $41MM deal with the Nuggets. Within the last week or two though, we’ve seen top remaining unrestricted free agents like Shabazz Muhammad, Tony Allen, and Andrew Bogut settle for minimum salary contracts.

That’s good news for several teams who have used all their available cap room and/or exceptions and can only offer minimum salary contracts for the rest of the 2017/18 league year. They won’t necessarily be at a disadvantage when it comes to signing free agents if those players aren’t being offered more than the minimum by teams with the means to do so.

In some cases though, an inability to offer more than the minimum can handicap a team. Dante Cunningham‘s free agent decision this week reflects this — according to multiple reports, the deal Cunningham agreed to with the Pelicans is actually worth $2.3MM, which is more than his minimum salary of $2.1MM. While we haven’t seen the official terms of Cunningham’s new contract yet, it’s possible that the $200K difference was one reason Cunningham chose New Orleans over a suitor like the Timberwolves, who could only offer the minimum.

Teams with the flexibility to offer more than the minimum could also benefit later in the NBA season. For instance, if Dwyane Wade negotiates a buyout with the Bulls and considers which team to join as a free agent, the fact that the Heat have retained their $4.328MM room exception could be a factor — it would allow Miami to make a stronger offer than the Cavs could.

With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the teams that currently don’t have the ability to offer more than the minimum salary, which is $815,615 for a first-year player:

  • Boston Celtics
  • Detroit Pistons
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Houston Rockets: $350 of mid-level exception available
  • Los Angeles Clippers: $774,770 of mid-level exception available
  • Memphis Grizzlies: $1,440,385 of mid-level exception available, but will use at least $815,615 to sign Ivan Rabb.
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • New York Knicks
  • Oklahoma City Thunder

Meanwhile, the following teams have less than $3.29MM (the value of the bi-annual exception) to offer to free agents:

  • Cleveland Cavaliers: $2,549,143 of taxpayer mid-level exception available
  • Utah Jazz: $1,128,000 of room exception available
  • Washington Wizards: $1,902,000 of taxpayer mid-level exception available

Of course, just because a team has an exception available, that doesn’t mean the club will be eager to use it. Teams like the Bucks or Pelicans, for instance, still have various MLE and BAE exception money available, but their proximity to the luxury tax threshold will make them reluctant to offer more than the minimum salary to anyone the rest of the way.

For a full breakdown of how teams have used their mid-level, room, and bi-annual exceptions for the 2017/18 league year, be sure to check out our MLE tracker and BAE tracker.

NBA’s Board Of Governors To Examine Revenue Sharing System

ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst have published an expansive and well-researched report on NBA teams’ finances, providing details on the league’s revenue sharing system, the impact from national and local television deals, and how a lack of net income for NBA franchises could push the league toward considering relocation or expansion.

The report is wide-ranging and detailed, so we’re going to tackle it by dividing it up into several sections, but it’s certainly worth reading in full to get a better picture of whether things stand in the NBA. Let’s dive in…

Which teams are losing money?

  • Nine teams reportedly lost money last season, even after revenue sharing. Those clubs were the Hawks, Nets, Pistons, Grizzlies, Magic, Wizards, Bucks, Cavaliers, and Spurs. The latter two teams – Cleveland and San Antonio – initially came out ahead, but paid into the league’s revenue sharing program, pushing them into the red.
  • Meanwhile, the Hornets, Kings, Pacers, Pelicans, Suns, Timberwolves, and Trail Blazers also would have lost money based on net income if not for revenue sharing, according to Lowe and Windhorst.
  • As a league, the NBA is still doing very well — the overall net income for the 30 teams combined was $530MM, per ESPN. That number also only takes into account basketball income, and doesn’t include income generated via non-basketball events for teams that own their arenas.
  • The players’ union and its economists have long been skeptical of NBA teams’ bookkeeping, alleging that clubs are using techniques to make themselves appear less profitable than they actually are, Windhorst and Lowe note. The union has the power to conduct its own audit of several teams per season, and it has begun to take advantage of that power — according to ESPN, the union audited five teams last season, and the new CBA will allow up to 10 teams to be audited going forward.

How does the gap between large and small market teams impact income?

  • Even after paying $49MM in revenue sharing, the Lakers finished the 2016/17 with a $115MM profit in terms of net income, per ESPN. That was the highest profit in the NBA, ahead of the second-place Warriors, and could be attributed in large part to the $149MM the Lakers received from their huge local media rights deals.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, the Grizzlies earned a league-low $9.4MM in local media rights, which significantly affected their bottom line — even after receiving $32MM in revenue sharing, Memphis lost money for the season. The Grizzlies will start a new TV deal this year that should help boost their revenue, but it still won’t come anywhere close to matching deals like the Lakers‘.
  • The biggest local TV deals help drive up the NBA’s salary cap, with teams like the Lakers and Knicks earning in excess of $100MM from their media agreements. According to the ESPN report, the Knicks made $10MM more on their TV deal than the six lowest-earning teams combined.
  • As one owner explained to ESPN, “National revenues drive up the cap, but local revenues are needed to keep up with player salaries. If a team can’t generate enough local revenues, they lose money.”
  • Playoff revenue from a big-market team like the Warriors also helps push up the salary cap. Sources tell Lowe and Windhorst that Golden State made about $44.3MM in net income from just nine home playoff games last season, more than doubling the playoff revenue of the next-best team (the Cavaliers at about $20MM).

How is revenue sharing affecting teams’ earnings?

  • Ten teams paid into the NBA’s revenue sharing system in 2016/17, with 15 teams receiving that money. The Sixers, Raptors, Nets, Heat, and Mavericks neither paid nor received any revenue sharing money. Four teams – the Warriors, Lakers, Bulls, and Knicks – accounted for $144MM of the total $201MM paid in revenue sharing.
  • While there’s general agreement throughout the NBA that revenue sharing is working as intended, some teams have “bristled about the current scale of monetary redistribution,” according to ESPN. “The need for revenue sharing was supposed to be for special circumstances, not permanent subsidies,” one large-market team owner said.
  • The Grizzlies, Hornets, Pacers, Bucks, and Jazz have each received at least $15MM apiece in each of the last four years via revenue sharing.
  • However, not all small-market teams receive revenue-sharing money — if a team outperforms its expectations based on market size, it forfeits its right to that money. For instance, the Thunder and Spurs have each paid into revenue sharing for the last six years.

Why might league-wide income issues lead to relocation or expansion?

  • At least one team owner has raised the idea of expansion, since an expansion fee for a new franchise could exceed $1 billion and it wouldn’t be subject to splitting 50/50 with players. A $1 billion expansion fee split 30 ways would work out to $33MM+ per team.
  • Meanwhile, larger-market teams who aren’t thrilled about their revenue-sharing fees have suggested that small-market clubs losing money every year should consider relocating to bigger markets, sources tell ESPN.
  • As Lowe and Windhorst observe, the Pistons – who lost more money than any other team last season – are undergoing a relocation of sorts, moving from the suburbs to downtown Detroit, in the hopes that the move will help boost revenue.

What are the next steps? Are changes coming?

  • The gap between the most and least profitable NBA teams is expected to be addressed at the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting next week, per Lowe and Windhorst. Team owners have scheduled a half-day review of the league’s revenue sharing system.
  • Obviously, large- and small-market teams view the issue differently. While some large-market teams have complained about the revenue sharing system, they’re outnumbered, with smaller-market teams pushing those more successful clubs to share more of their profits, according to ESPN.
  • Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen is one of the loudest voices pushing for more “robust” revenue sharing, sources tell ESPN. Some team owners have argued that the system should ensure all teams make a profit, while one even suggested every team should be guaranteed a $20MM profit. There will be “pushback” on those ideas, Lowe and Windhorst note. “This is a club where everyone knows the rules when they buy in,” one owner said.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, some teams have floated the idea of limiting the amount of revenue sharing money a team can receive if it has been taking payments for several consecutive years.
  • Any change to the revenue sharing system that is formally proposed at the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting would require a simple majority (16 votes to 14) to pass.

Thunder Notes: Durant, Abrines, Patterson

More than a year after leaving Oklahoma City for Golden State, Kevin Durant can’t seem to escape the drama that came with that decision. As Weston Shepherd of Daily Thunder outlines, a pair of tweets sent from Durant’s Twitter account earlier this week suggested that the star forward “didn’t like the [Thunder] organization or playing for Billy Donovan” and that OKC’s roster wasn’t talented enough to win a championship.

While those tweets were sent from Durant’s account, they referred to him in the third person, so it’s possible that someone with access to his Twitter published them without realizing which handle he was using. The tweets were quickly deleted, but there has been no explanation from KD, which may be a sign that his(?) comments on the Thunder weren’t far off the mark.

Westbrook's Shoe Deal, What It Could Mean

  • With his original five-year Jordan Brand deal set to expire after this season, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook signed a 10-year extension with the Nike offshoot. Now, Nick DePaula of ESPN writes, the company will start developing an on-court Westbrook shoe.
  • The massive 10-year Jordan Brand extension could impact Russell Westbrook’s decision to sign an extension with the Thunder, Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman writes. While a player like Westbrook, who relies heavily on athleticism, may normally be inclined to lock in a long-term deal at age 28, Westbrook won’t exactly be hard up for cash if he decides to pursue other options.

15 Two-Way Contract Slots Remain Open

With NBA training camps just a couple weeks away, most teams are putting the finishing touches on their respective rosters. In addition to having secured at least a dozen players on guaranteed contracts and perhaps a handful of camp invitees, each NBA club has also signed at least one player to a two-way contract.

As we explain in depth in our FAQ, two-way contracts – a new concept under the league’s latest Collective Bargaining Agreement – allow NBA teams to carry two extra players in addition to the 15 on their regular season roster. These players spend most of their time with the club’s G League affiliate, but are eligible to join the NBA roster for up to 45 days per season, and remain under team control — they can’t be poached by rival franchises.

Teams have been signing players to two-way contracts since July, so we’re starting to get a better idea of what players on those deals will look like — some are late second-round draft picks; some are undrafted rookies; others are G League or international veterans, or former NBA players looking to work their way back into the league.

Every NBA club has signed at least one player to a two-way deal, but only half of those 30 clubs have filled both spots, meaning that there are still 15 two-way openings around the league. With the help of our two-way tracker, here’s a breakdown of the teams that still have an open two-way slot:

  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Houston Rockets
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Miami Heat
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • New York Knicks
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Orlando Magic
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Portland Trail Blazers

While the Suns and Jazz technically could be included on this list, they’ve reportedly reached agreements – with Alec Peters and Nate Wolters, respectively – to fill their second two-way slots, so unless those deals unexpectedly fall through, they won’t have any openings.

Although some of these two-way openings figure to be filled in advance of training camp, many of the clubs listed above have signed camp invitees to Exhibit 10 contracts, which can later be converted into two-way deals. So rather than signing someone new and waiving a camp invitee, a handful of teams may simply convert an Exhibit 10 contract to a two-way contract before the regular season begins.

Former Magic GM Rob Hennigan Rejoining Thunder

Three months after being dismissed by the Magic, veteran executive Rob Hennigan is returning to his old NBA home, according to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). League sources tell Scotto that the Thunder have re-hired the former Orlando general manager.

Hennigan, who spent five years as the Magic’s GM, was a member of the Oklahoma City front office before making the move to Orlando. During his final two seasons with the Thunder, Hennigan served as the club’s assistant general manager/player personnel. Before that, he spent two seasons as OKC’s director of college/international player personnel.

While Hennigan didn’t have much success in Orlando during his first stint as the head of a basketball operations department, reports in the wake of his firing suggested that he remained widely respected around the NBA, and would likely receive “attractive” offers from other teams.

It remains to be seen what Hennigan’s new title in Oklahoma City will be, but it’s worth noting that one of the Thunder’s assistant general managers, Michael Winger, left the franchise last month to become the Clippers’ new GM. It would make sense for Hennigan to help fill the hole created by Winger’s departure, rejoining old friends Sam Presti and Troy Weaver in OKC’s basketball operations department.

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