Photo Credits: Sue Ugrocki/AP
When free agency officially commenced on August 2, the Oklahoma City Thunder carried one of the NBA’s heftiest loads of cap space. Fast forward three days — and Oklahoma City now sits atop the NBA’s free agency throne — wielding the largest cap space in the league.
The Oklahoma City Thunder initially had the fourth-highest cushion in cap space at an estimated $30 million, but they have outlasted the competition. The league’s biggest spender entering the market rested in the New York Knicks with $52.6 million. They used upwards of $50 million to retain their core of Derrick Rose, Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, Taj Gibson, and recently acquired Evan Fournier. The second-largest bidder in San Antonio allocated over $40 million in taking on Zach Collins, Doug McDermott, and Al Faruq-Aminu among others. The third-deepest pockets came from the Dallas Mavericks’ $33.5 million card. They used their spending power on resigning Tim Hardaway Jr., and a few smaller signings. The Mavs are stooped at $3.7 million in cap space.
Oklahoma City has $28 million in remaining cap space. The second-closest team (New Orleans) has a mere $13.5 in cap space.
With the Thunder’s colossal monetary advantage, Sam Presti stretching his money to the fullest is to be expected. Though a heavy portion of upper-echelon names is off the board, names to the tune of Dennis Schroder, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Reggie Jackson are still available. As displayed in the buyout of Kemba Walker, Thunder GM Sam Presti is not the business for bringing on veterans. He is in search of assets, however. All of Schroder, Oubre Jr., Jackson, and others are worthy of a modest payday, the problem is no one outside of Oklahoma City can provide that. Barring any steep transactions, if these high-tier players want their asking price, they’ll need to call upon Sam Presti for the check. Once added, these players would almost indefinitely be flipped via sign-and-trade, or shipped out during the regular season once trade restrictions are lifted.
Oklahoma City may also intend to spend their money on players intended to perform in a Thunder jersey. Reports surfaced last week that Oklahoma City shed some interest in restricted free agent Lauri Markannen. Markannen is yet to find a deal. The 24-year-old big man strobed beams of excellence in his first four NBA seasons, but a combination of tossing him a misused role and a more guard-oriented roster shelled Markannen late into his contract. The Chicago Bulls get the final word on his status, as they did hand out a qualifying offer, but with new additions in Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan on the team — they may have a spending limit. Oklahoma City does not.
Sam Presti is infamous for his frugal spending during contract negotiation, but with an excess amount of cap space — he may have some tricks up his sleeve.