Why the Emerging Oklahoma City Thunder Dynasty Is Precarious

Ethan Sherwood StraussNBA Lead WriterJune 6, 2012

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 04:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder talks with Russell Westbrook #0 against the San Antonio Spurs in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on June 4, 2012 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Whether the Thunder beat the Spurs seems almost ancillary to what we're witnessing.

This is the future interrupting the present.

We got so used to the "OKC Plan" that its inevitable conclusion feels almost like a surprise. But you can't watch the Thunder reel off three straight playoff wins against one of the best offensive teams in league history without acknowledging a budding greatness. 

So, where is this headed? What are the pratfalls? 

In theory, the dynasty is based on four planks (four possible superstars). It's precarious in that two of the players are yet to be paid past their rookie contracts, and the CBA makes it difficult for a team to pay anyone other than three superstars (see Miami Heat).

Currently, Kevin Durant is earning $89,163,135 through five years, Russell Westbrook is earning $79,385,032 through six. Combined, the two will have the Thunder committing $35,988,310 in 2015.

That would put the Thunder at 60 percent of the current $58 million salary cap. 

It makes complete sense to pay out that much to Durant and Westbrook. It's only an issue for the Thunder because they are so talent-rich. The good news for OKC is that this current team will be in place for at least one more year. Beyond that, the fates of three players will determine the direction of a franchise.


James Harden

He would get a near-max or max deal on the open market. The playoffs have been a coming out party for a player the Thunder have been keeping under wraps. They're only playing him 31 minutes per night, despite his youth, and hyper-efficient productivity. Harden has a ridiculous .66 true shooting percentage, good for fourth in the league. Those above him either didn't play much this year—or are Tyson Chandler.

Harden parlays sublime skill with a herky-jerk lateral technique that creates fouls out of thin air. The Thunder would be compelled to keep the bearded one, especially because he can provide a decent point guard imitation when Westbrook's either sitting or chucking. 


Serge Ibaka

The list of shot-blocking power forwards who can hit a pick-and-pop jumper is...Serge Ibaka. And that will get a man paid. Ibaka hit 46 percent of his long twos and blocked 3.7 shots per game. This is a rare commodity in the league, and one the Thunder will desperately hope to underpay for. 


Kendrick Perkins

Dead man walking. He's a veteran and a decent low-post defender, but I can't fathom how OKC pays him while retaining any shot at signing the above two players. The amnesty is sure to come for Perkins, no matter how well he plays.

The Thunder have a shot at signing Harden and Ibaka, provided they amnesty Perkins. If they can pull this off, it's not out of the realm of possibility that this collection of young talent (Durant, Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka) grows to be among the best teams ever assembled.