Originally written on The I in Team  |  Last updated 11/3/14

GM Sam Presti inked Serge Ibaka to 4-year, $48 million extension. The Thunder are now committed to paying Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka just a hair under $44 million come 2013-2014. Throw in Kendrick Perkins and that figure jumps up to $52 million. Prior to this extension, a lot of people have been left wondering how the small market Thunder will handle the contracts of the core 4. The consensus seemed to be that Harden would definitely get his extension with Ibaka remaining as the loose end. Just because it happened the other way around, doesn’t necessarily spell and end for Harden in a blue jersey.

The Thunder still maintain some good flexibility with regards to the cap and the luxury tax. They, obviously, can try and extend Harden. His price is tough to predict at this point. I’m confident he would command a max salary on the open market, especially with Dallas and Houston able to clear (more than enough) cap room, but it’s quite possible that he signs for less. If he wants to stay with OKC, the odds are he won’t be offered a max contract. Westbrook wasn’t offered the max and he had been a starter for the team. It’s also questionable, financially, for OKC to extend a full max offer.

If Harden is determined to get the largest contract possible, OKC can still make it work. Clay Bennett can just suck it up and pay all the luxury tax fees and hope to reel in a title in the process. The Thunder can also amnesty Kendrick Perkins or Nick Collison. The former will be harder to let loose now that Dwight Howard and the Lakers stand between the Thunder and a return to the finals.

The other option, which isn’t necessarily being talked about is to stand pat for now and reevaluate at the end of the season. They just locked Ibaka into what could prove to be an under market deal. Ibaka is a pretty darn dynamic on defense and has grown in leaps and bounds on the offensive side. He put up some sterling shooting performances in the playoffs, which may have been a little anomalous but are indicative of his offensive growth. The Thunder do retain the right to trade Ibaka after 6 months. The Thunder could realistically use the beginning of the season to evaluate both Ibaka and Harden and then proceed to trade one of them. I’m sure many who missed out on Howard would be eager to try and trade for Harden.

Ultimately, I think the Thunder will keep their core 4 together. Unless you’re Chicago, you don’t break up a championship caliber team for luxury tax concerns. The Thunder’s team will be locked in for the foreseeable future (barring trades, of course) and it will be interesting to see how they match up against the Lakers and Heat moving forward.

Oh, and just because:

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