Deadline to opt-in looms – 4 OKC Thunder players face big decision

Danilo Gallinari #8 of the OKC Thunder stands on the court during a NBA game against the New Orleans Pelicans on December 01, 2019 (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Danilo Gallinari #8 of the OKC Thunder stands on the court during a NBA game against the New Orleans Pelicans on December 01, 2019 (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

With the June 23 deadline to opt-out, four specific OKC Thunder players have big decisions to make.

This week serves up key benchmarks for the OKC Thunder and the 21 teams who’ll participate in the season restart in Orlando. While COVID-19 testing can start today the most critical date occurs tomorrow (Wednesday, June 24) as players must indicate their intentions to participate in the Disney bubble. Although every OKC player has to weigh the pros and cons, four specific Thunder players have extra points to ponder.

Although the expectation is a majority of players will participate, a few key factors will play a role in those who elect not to play.

Injured players will not participate, but those with injury histories or preexisting medical conditions could elect to sit out. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant would fall into this category. Jeff Green is an example of someone who might opt out given his 2012 heart surgery. Other conditions such as diabetes, asthma, or other ailments could make the individual more susceptible to the coronavirus.

Four OKC Thunder players greatly impacted by restart decision

OKC Thunder forward, Andre Roberson said he expects to make a return with the restart. However, given how much time he’s missed and the severity of his injury he faces a tough decision. In his recent statements, Roberson seems gung ho to get back on the court so he may already have made up his mind.

Some players may decide to remain out to focus on societal challenges. This group will include individuals who feel they can use their platform and have a greater impact remaining in their community. Two of the individuals key in the player coalition are Avery Bradley and Dwight Howard. If they both elect to opt-out how would their absence affect the Lakers?

A big factor will be pending contract situations. This group would include free agents, players who are due to negotiate extensions, or potentially sign max contracts. An injury in Orlando could potentially derail their ability to sign a large contract or negotiate the same value if they were fully healthy.

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Our recent article highlighted this issue as young stars spoke with the NBPA and league about the potential of a league financed or assisted insurance policy. Specifically, Bam Adebayo (Heat), De’Aaron Fox (Kings), Kyle Kuzma (Lakers), Donovan Mitchell (Jazz), and Jayson Tatum (Celtics) are players from the 2017 draft class who are due to sign significant rookie contract extensions this summer.

One player who has already opted out as per Adrian Wojnarowski, is Wizards’ sharpshooter Davis Bertans who suffered two previous ACL injuries.

Several top teams have players entering free agency with major contacts potentially due. Anthony Davis of the Lakers and Fred VanVleet of the Raptors are two examples. A bad injury to either could significantly affect their contract negotiations.

The main players on the OKC Thunder who have big decisions to make are Luguentz Dort, Danilo Gallinari, and Nerlens Noel.

Dort is currently under a two-way contract with all expectations being Sam Presti will offer him a varsity contract in the coming days. Dort is often cited by pundits as the main two-way player expected to be converted given his role in the starting rotation.

A few different scenarios can play out with the Canadian seemingly holding all the cards. Presti will likely want to lock Dort down for at least another season possibly two. But, Dort could decide he can garner a higher salary on the open market in free agency. This could result in the guard only signing through to the end of this season, asking for a longer-term, or not signing at all.

Both Gallinari and Noel are set to become free agents and might be concerned about sustaining injuries in Orlando. Conversely, strong performances at Disney could improve their stock and negotiating power in a feeble free agent class.

Based on the numerous videos Gallo posted on social media it feels safe to presume he’s playing and Noel sort of needs a big performance to improve his overall value.

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