The deadline to reach contract extensions for the 2009 draft class is now less than a week away. Teams have until the end of the month to either reach a new contract with their players or allow them to become restricted free agents next summer.
One of the biggest names involved in these disputes is Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden. Harden is an interesting case because the Thunder have made it very clear that they want to keep him around, but offering him a max deal would put them over the salary cap, something OKC is trying to avoid.
The Thunder may have found a loophole though. They could give Harden an incentivized contract that would reward him for his play, getting him near the same amount of money as a max deal without being penalized by the salary cap. They just have to make sure Harden’s incentives are challenging enough.
The NBA counts ‘easy to achieve’ incentives against the cap, however, incentives that are deemed hard to achieve, like making the Conference Finals or being named an All-Star do not count against the cap. This could be the loophole that gets Harden signed, simply because of how good the Thunder have been in the West.
Getting a deal done for Harden would be huge for the Thunder who are looking to avoid the drama of having one of their superstars unsigned all season. OKC is surely hoping to be fully focused in their quest to return to the NBA Finals, and having Harden’s future with the team up in the air could be a big distraction.
If Harden is able to reach a deal with the Thunder in the next week, it will still have to be approved by the league. It will be interesting to see what type of incentives the team can get away with to make sure he gets the most amount of money possible.