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What the New CBA Means for Thunder's Chances at Re-Signing Russell Westbrook

Jon Hamm@@JonMHammOklahoma City Thunder Lead WriterDecember 15, 2016

PORTLAND, OR - DECEMBER 13:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder with his teammates are seen during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on December 13, 2016 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

The NBA players and owners have agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement months in advance of a potential lockout. There should be much rejoicing now that any potential work stoppage appears to be avoided.

This should include Oklahoma City, even as the outgoing CBA has been a thorn in the Thunder's side since 2011. Radical changes in that agreementsuch as stiffer luxury-tax penalties, rollbacks in veteran extensions and limitations on extending rookie-scale contractsthrew a wrench in the team's best-laid plans.

Thus, Thunder general manager Sam Presti must be thrilled to get in front of potential land mines this time around.

As with any new agreement, there will be salary-cap rule changes and additions. For example, luxury-tax rules will be "softened" for some teams, and trade rules will be "liberalized," according to Sports Illustrated. Minimum-salary contracts and various salary-cap exceptions will increase by 45 percent.

Brian Windhorst @WindhorstESPN

@AlbertRandom1 Minimum salaries, rookie salaries, mid-level exceptions and biannual exception all going up 45%

A new perk called the "designated veteran" rule gives teams an opportunity to extend the contract of a star player more easily. The rule appears to be designed to give franchises an extra advantage in locking up superstars before they hit free agency.

Howard Beck @HowardBeck

Quick CBA note: Teams will get TWO uses of new Designated Veteran Exception, not one. So teams can lock up two stars before they hit FA.

Zach Lowe @ZachLowe_NBA

Only guys who meet various performance criteria -- including All-NBA team -- will be eligible for Designated Player extensions, sources say

What does that mean for Russell Westbrook, who was celebrated in the state of Oklahoma when he agreed to a three-year extension with the Thunder in August?

The new "designated veteran" rule will apparently give the Thunder star an even better chance to sign another long-term deal with the team next summer.

The exact language of the designated veteran rule hasn't been released yet. But based on reported information, the Thunder would be able to offer Westbrook a five-year extension potentially worth more than $217 million.

Assuming the signing rules don't change significantly, the best offer he could receive from another team is a four-year deal worth $161 million.

The 2018 salary cap is projected to increase to $108 million, though that could change before the ink dries on the new agreement. Whether Westbrook extended his contract under the designated veteran rule or chose to enter free agency, his first-year maximum salary would be 35 percent of the cap figure. He'd also be eligible for annual increases of 7.5 percent of the base salary each year if he stayed with the Thunder.

Essentially, Westbrook could lock in his next big deal a year early and bypass free agency. The terms would be the same.

That would be a huge win for OKC and would give Westbrook long-term security. But what if he declined to extend his contract this summer? That would be an ominous signal to Thunder brass.

Losing Kevin Durant in free agency was a massive blow to the franchise; it can't afford to lose its other star in similar fashion. Every trade-rumor site on the internet would blow up with Westbrook scenarios, and for good reason.

However, it appears the NBA and NBPA anticipated the idea that a player could force a trade and reap the extension benefit with another team.

Tim Bontemps @TimBontemps

Meaning: if a star like Westbrook or Cousins is traded next summer, they won't qualify for Designated Player extension with their new team

For Westbrook, it would mean making a long-term decision for a second consecutive summer.

His future was unexpectedly thrown into uncertainty last summer when Durant chose to sign with Golden State. Suddenly, he was faced with a decision: accept an extension with a renegotiated 2016-17 salary or face the possibility of a trade. He has a similar scenario again.

Still, that prospect is several months away.

Other changes to the CBA will be right up the Thunder front office's alley. As expected, the relationship between an NBA team and its D-League club will tighten. New "two-way" contracts will be introduced, allowing teams to add two additional players for development purposes.

RENO, NV - NOVEMBER 19: Members of the Oklahoma City Blue on the court during the National Anthem at the Reno Events Center on November 19, 2016 in Reno, Nevada before a game against the Reno Bighorns. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
David Calvert/Getty Images

The Thunder have long relied on their D-League team, the Oklahoma City Blue, for player development. The Blue play directly across the street from Chesapeake Energy Arena in downtown Oklahoma City. Both entities work tightly together and are considered different departments of the same organization.

The Blue have been a landing spot for several Thunder draftees over the years, including Jeremy Lamb, Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones, Semaj Christon and Josh Huestis. With an additional two roster spots, expect the Thunder to scrounge for even more prospects to put in their talent pipeline.

All of the nitty-gritty details will be released in the coming weeks, and some aspects could change before the new agreement is ratified. The good thing for the Thunder is they can get a six-month head start on next season with clarity on the new rules.

         

Email Jon Hamm at hammj@outlook.com and follow him on Twitter: @JonMHamm. Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus contributed to this report.

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