NBA@2: Are OKC Thunder Still West’s Best?
The new NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) makes the penalty for spending over and above the luxury tax threshold progressively odious for offending teams. The financial penalty gets worse, and before long teams that are consistently paying tax start to lose the exceptions that allow for the addition of key players outside of the salary cap limitation.
What the NBA, as a league, would like to see is more teams doing what San Antonio and Oklahoma City have done, which is draft well, develop their talent, and build championship-caliber teams from the ground up. That practice is sustainable, and if every team is doing the same thing it levels the playing field for small market teams to compete with big market teams in the grand scheme.
This summer, despite the new CBA and the changes in the way the tax system is structured, we’ve seen some of the big market teams go out and spend even more to try and make one last run before the new rules kick in, but don’t take that to mean that Thunder GM Sam Presti is going to change his approach in the slightest. Even as some pundits would have the Thunder trading for a piece or two, or even trading starting center Kendrick Perkins, who was injured before the Finals even began. Presti isn’t about to heed that advice, and insists that no one player or one situation will force him to change his increasingly proven approach.
“We are fairly consistent in always believing and communicating that it is never about one player or injuries being the deciding factor in our outcomes,” Presti tells HOOPSWORLD. “At the end of the season no one is ever 100% healthy and no team is at full strength, so I wouldn’t say that is an area stood out. We played an excellent team in the Miami HEAT. They were the better team, we tip our hat to them and we will look to get better from here in the areas that separate the high performance teams in our league.”
What, exactly, are those areas?
“For every team it is different in terms of how they respond to various moments and challenges in time,” says Presti. “In our case, I don’t think we needed to have experienced it to be humbled or appreciative of what it means to arrive at that opportunity. Going through this process will be important to continuing to build our habits and identity going forward. Each year is unique and presents new challenges, as a team and organization we have already turned the page and are focused on taking a step-wise mentality into this summer and then into camp.”
Leadership is one of the most important foundations for a franchise, as well, and Presti is confident in the group he has in OKC.
“Kevin (Durant), Russell (Westbrook), amongst others, all lead in their own ways for our club. The guys that have been with us since our inception in 2008 have worked diligently to create a set of standards that we work by on a day-to-day basis. Through their hard work, professionalism and willingness to embrace the responsibilities that come with establishing a new franchise in a place like Oklahoma City, they have an ownership of the culture that has evolved over a period of years.”
One thing of which Presti must remain ever-conscious is the fact that the Thunder are a small market team, and while consistency is important for any team that enjoys sustained success, it’s also imperative for a team in a city that can’t support a Los Angeles Lakers’ style payroll.
“We feel like consistency allows for change,” Presti explains. “When you consider where we are as an organization and the development curves of many of our players, it’s clear that we have focused on building from within to create consistency for the franchise. Given the parameters of the new CBA and the realities of building an organization that can endure in Oklahoma City, our most significant opportunity for growth remains of an organic nature.”
A huge part of the Thunder’s continued success will depend upon the guidance of the coaching staff that got them this far, and Presti couldn’t be more thrilled that head coach Scott Brooks just signed a new contract with the team.
“We have consistently communicated that Scott has been integral to our success in many ways. The consistency of his approach on a day-to-day basis, his makeup as not only a coach but also a person, is really a great fit for our organization and our players He and his coaches have been instrumental in the development of our players to this point and that will be important as we move forward. Scott has been with the organization for five years, he started as an assistant coach and has grown into a position as one of the top coaches in the NBA. A big part of that is that he really understands our organization. He has embraced the vision we have for the program as a whole and he embodies it in a lot of ways. We’re thrilled to have him continue with us.”
The Thunder may have fallen short of their ultimate goal last season – three wins short, to be exact – but they are still very much on course to continue their path of steady growth towards being a championship team. They won’t be trading for Dwight Howard any time soon, but moves like drafting Perry Jones III and inking Hasheem Thabeet to a low-risk, high reward type of deal give the Thunder a chance to be a little bit deeper and a little bit better next season.
And that’s all they need . . .to be a little bit better.
2012-13 NBA Salary Cap Set
The National Basketball Association has announced that the Salary Cap for the 2012-13 season will be $58.044 million. The tax level for the 2012-13 season has been set at $70.307 million. Any team whose team salary exceeds that figure will pay a $1 tax for each $1 by which it exceeds $70.307 million.
The Salary Cap and tax level, both of which are unchanged from 2011-12 amounts, go into effect at 12:01 a.m. ET on Wednesday, July 11, when the league’s “moratorium period” ends and teams can begin signing free agents and making trades.
The minimum team salary, which is set at 85% of the Salary Cap, is $49.337 million for the 2012-13 season.
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement provides for three different mid-level exceptions depending on a team’s salary level. The non-taxpayer mid-level for this season is $5.0 million, the taxpayer mid-level is $3.09 million and the mid-level for a team with room under the Salary Cap is $2.575 million.
Orlando Summer League: Fab Melo
HOOPSWORLD is in Orlando this week, covering the Orlando Summer League, where the first action of the summer is now in Day Three. Boston Celtics draftee Fab Melo has been putting in some work, though also struggling a bit on the offensive end. He had just two points in 14 minutes of Boston’s debut, though he did block two shots and grab two rebounds, as well. In his second outing he also struggled to score (0-2), but had five rebounds and a block. Clearly some work to be done for Fab, who tells HOOPSWORLD about his first taste of NBA action in this exclusive interview:
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