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For all of the rightful celebrating going on in Oklahoma City right now, there is a creeping dark cloud hovering over the franchise.
Are they too good to keep the team together?
With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook under contract to maximum salary deals, the team is going to have to choose between shooting guard James Harden and power forward Serge Ibaka, or face luxury tax hell.
Beginning with the 2013-14 season, the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement has the following stipulations for teams over the tax:
|Amount Over Tax ||First-Time Offense ||Repeat Offender Rate
|$5 million or less ||$1.50 to every $1 over ||$2.50 to every $1 over
|$5 million to $10 million ||$1.75 to every $1 over ||$2.75 to every $1 over
|$10 million to $15 million ||$2.50 to every $1 over ||$3.50 to every $1 over
|$15 million or more ||$3.25 to every $1 over ||$4.25 to every $1 over
The upcoming tax hike is the reason you see the Los Angeles Lakers unloading the Lamar Odoms and Derek Fishers of the world for little to nothing in return.
For Oklahoma City, these figures are paramount as both Harden and Ibaka become extension eligible this summer. And, as it stands now, both are looking at figures in the $12-million-plus range if contracts stay consistent with recent trends.
If Clay Bennett decides he can stomach the luxury tax hit, he's looking at somewhere between $72 and $76 million in salary commitments for seven players (assuming players currently under contract stay with the team).
In total, Bennett would probably be looking at an overall team cost of $85-90 million before his luxury tax hit.
For reference, that figure would rank Oklahoma City somewhere in the top three in NBA team payrolls this season.
We've seen that Oklahoma City can support a winning basketball franchise, but can it support an empire? That's the question.