After making it to the Western Conference Finals this past season, the Oklahoma City Thunder are trying to do whatever they can to keep their young team intact. Superstars, Durant and Westbrook, are signed to max contracts and Serge Ibaka recently signed a contract for $44 million.
Unfortunately, that leaves very little money leftover for 6th man of the year, James Harden. And while most 6th men of the year are worth the amount of a starting player, James Harden isn’t just a starting player; he’s an emerging all-star.
“James is somebody we value,” Presti said Monday afternoon. “We think he’s an important part to what we’re trying to do with our team and we’re hopeful that he’ll be with us…By the same token, we’ve been very upfront and transparent with everybody that we have some inherent challenges that we face as an organization as a result of the new collective bargaining agreement,” the Thunder general manager continued. “I know we’d love to have him here. I think James would like to be here as well. But at the end of the day … you have to find a way to make it work for everybody.”
The good news for Thunder fans is that Sam Presti isn’t your ordinary General Manager. Realistically speaking, however, there isn’t much cap room that Presti has to work with. Harden can stay in OKC and be a part of something special or be another overpaid “Joe Johnson” who was trying to be a superstar in Atlanta before jumping ship to Brooklyn. Harden is good, but he’s not a franchise player yet. For better or worse, however, he’ll be thrown a max contract. The only question is whether Harden is about winning or money at this point in his young career. And to be honest with you, the answer is not as clear as you might think.