If the Thunder re-sign Kevin Durant, adding him back to their current roster, the team won’t have any cap space to use for 2016/17. However, that isn’t stopping Oklahoma City from considering a run at another one of the top free agents on the market. According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, the Thunder have been making calls around the NBA looking to clear cap room, and rival executives believe the club is intent on pursuing Al Horford to go along with Durant.
As Windhorst details, the Thunder have made calls exploring the possibility of sending players like Enes Kanter and Kyle Singler to teams with the cap room necessary to absorb their salaries. The team could also save nearly $11.8MM in 2016/17 salary by cutting Ersan Ilyasova and Anthony Morrow, whose salaries aren’t guaranteed yet. Of course, if the Thunder want to avoid guaranteeing Ilyasova’s salary, that will require a quick decision — his $8.4MM becomes guaranteed tomorrow.
Even if the Thunder kept Ilyasova, they could clear plenty of salary by dealing Kanter and Singler, and waiving Morrow — that would move nearly $25.5MM off the team’s books. Remove Dion Waiters‘ qualifying offer and that would leave Oklahoma City with only about $46.6MM in team salary. Both Durant and Horford are eligible to earn maximum salaries of about $26.6MM, so depending on where the salary cap lands, some additional maneuvering may be required to make a Horford signing a reality for the Thunder, unless he and/or Durant were willing to take less than the max.
Horford’s interest level in the Thunder isn’t entirely clear, but he has a connection to head coach Billy Donovan, having played for him as a Florida Gator, and the two men remain close, according to Windhorst.
Although adding Horford would require several steps, and may be a long shot for the Thunder, the fact that the team is exploring such a possibility could be a selling point for Durant. Oklahoma City is set to sit down with its superstar forward today, and while the two sides technically aren’t permitted to discuss contract terms until July, the Thunder could present the Horford plan to Durant as one of several avenues to improving the roster. Playing for a perennial championship contender is a top priority for Durant, so OKC’s pitch figures to center on how the team can remain in contention for a title for years to come.
As for Horford, he’ll have a ton of suitors outside of the Thunder. The Hawks will work hard to re-sign him, and the Lakers, Rockets, Magic, Pistons, Wizards, Celtics, Heat, and Nets are among the other teams expected to have some interest. A Wednesday report suggested that Atlanta is hesitant to offer Horford a five-year deal, and if the team maintains that stance, it could risk losing him.