The Oklahoma City Thunder have a projected payroll of $146.9 million next season, and with the NBA luxury tax threshold coming in at $132 million, the Thunder will be paying the tax again after already recording the highest luxury tax payment in league history last season.
It would be one thing if Oklahoma City was a perennial contender, making that bill easier to stomach, but the Thunder haven’t won a playoff series since Kevin Durant defected for the Golden State Warriors in 2016. Oklahoma City has holes throughout its roster, specifically the team’s need for shooting, and the Thunder only have 11 players under contract next season, so the tax bill could get even higher.
As a result, the Oklahoma City front office is getting proactive about reducing the team’s total salary ahead of the 2019 NBA Draft. According to Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated, not only is the team’s first-round draft pick on the table, but the Thunder are also willing to part with starting center Steven Adams, as well as Andre Roberson and Dennis Schröder.
Roberson hasn’t played since suffering a devastating torn patellar tendon in January 2018, but he is on an expiring deal worth $10.7 million, which could make him movable. Schröder is a bit more difficult to project out, as he hasn’t figured out his shot from the perimeter and struggles on defense while being owed $31 million over the next two years.
Adams could theoretically fetch more value as an above-average center, but he makes $25.8 million this season and $27.5 million in 2020-21. He looked a step slow in the playoffs, unable to assert his will against another lumbering center in Enes Kanter. That forced the Thunder to play small with Nerlens Noel at the five for long stretches in closing time.
Oklahoma City has one of the best players in the NBA in Paul George and a former MVP in Russell Westbrook. General manager Sam Presti has always been lauded for his boldness and creativity, and it appears he’s once again willing to figure something out to get under the tax, even if it requires moving a player as valuable as Adams.