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Here’s why OKC players will receive huge bonuses despite missing the playoffs.

Probably the only time players were hoping the team doesn't improve at the trade deadline.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander celebrates with teammates

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander & Co. 

The Oklahoma City Thunder missed the playoffs, which is a bummer, but their players have a reason to be thankful for: a huge bonus due to salary cap rules.

It’s a blessing to be under the salary cap

It’s clear OKC is in a hard rebuild. That means they are willing to take on bad contracts for future assets. This trade deadline, everyone on the team was hoping GM Sam Presti didn't make a move like that. The Thunder are under the salary cap, and per league rules, the discrepancy must be distributed among the players.

The salary cap in the NBA this season is at $112.4 million, and a team has to pay a minimum of $101.2 million to its players. OKC’s salary cap was only $79 million. The $22 million estimated shortfall must be shared among players who appeared in at least half the number of games for the whole season. Meanwhile, those who played lesser games are also set to receive either half or quarter of the shares. It’s a big blessing, especially to those with smaller contracts like Kenrich Williams.

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His salary for this year was $2 million, but because of the bonus, it could go as high as $3 million. However, it looks like it will be the last time this happens as Oklahoma City is set to open its war chest to improve its chances of making the postseason next year.

What’s next for OKC?

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander signed a 5-year deal worth $176.9 million. The bump in his salary from $5.5 million to $29.8 million is set to take place in the '22/'23 season. The team also has young prospect Josh Giddey, and his development, together with Gilgeous-Alexander, could determine if other stars would want to play for the OKC in the following years. Darius Bazley and Lu Dort are also set for an extension, and negotiations are expected to begin this offseason. At this point, Sam Presti is focusing on player development than splurging on big names via free agency.

“If we want to burn our boats to get 40 wins, we could do that. Would that be best for the long term future of the Thunder? Probably not.”

Sam Presti, SI.com

Rebuilding is a long and arduous process for both the organization and fans. It’s like waiting for that perfect moment when everything would be aligned. But that moment could also not happen at all. OKC management has given the players their bonus. So it’s now up to them to prove they deserved it. 

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