Leave it to Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti to find a unique way to make use of the Thunder’s room under the salary cap. Having already collected plenty of first-round picks and young players with cap space in the past, this time Presti effectively used the space to save some money over the next four years as part of an extension for Oklahoma City center Nick Collison. The Collective Bargaining Agreement allows teams to use space as part of renegotiated contracts, but this virtually never happens. According to multiple reports (I saw ESPN’s Marc Stein break this first), Collison got a signing bonus of $6.5 million that applies to the cap immediately as part of a four-year, $11 million extension that takes him off the free-agent market at season’s end.
From Collison’s perspective, he’s signed for four years and $17.5 million–a good deal for a 30-year-old reserve, especially given the uncertain future of the CBA. (In fact, the contract is slightly more valuable to Collison because of the time value of money and getting so much up front.) But the deal is very friendly to the Thunder’s cap, since Collison will be making an average of less than $3 million per season, down to just $2.24 million the final year.
All the complexity makes evaluating the extension from Oklahoma City’s position a bit tricky. We have to consider the cap number, the actual cash outlay and the alternative assets the Thunder could have gleaned from its cap space by the trade deadline (likely at least one first-round pick). Ultimately, I think it should work out well for Oklahoma City. Collison has been important to the Thunder’s defense, which missed him early this season when he was out with a stress reaction in his lower left leg, and is a veteran presence in the young Oklahoma City locker room. Collison will be making so little by the end of his extension–not even twice the veteran minimum–that it represents relatively little risk to the Thunder.
Whatever your take on the value, say this for Presti–he’s willing to try anything and everything to help his team.