The new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) harshly penalizes franchises that grossly mismanage their cap sheet by racking up immense salaries. It’s more vital than ever to correctly utilize cap space, which is a strength for Sam Presti and the OKC Thunder.
OKC Thunder Own A Clean Cap Sheet Until 2026
Because the Thunder are an extremely young team built on rookie contracts and bargain deals, they possess an enormous amount of flexibility. Their core players combine for 77.2 percent of the salary cap this season and an estimated 75.7 percent next season. That’s roughly 36 and 34 million in space, respectively. The figure for next season doesn’t include a potential new contract for restricted free agent Aleksej Pokusevski, but it assuredly won’t be too expensive.
Since Sam Presti opted for asset accumulation this off-season, OKC is currently over the salary cap due to the acquisitions of Davis Bertans and Victor Oladipo. However, Oladipo’s contract is expiring, while Bertans is guaranteed only $5,000,000 next season. Therefore, expect OKC to retain flexibility for the next three seasons until Giddey (2025), Holmgren (2026), and Jalen Williams (2026) all secure monster deals.
Essentially, the Thunder can experiment with cap space or absorb large contracts until the 2026 off-season, where Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams, and Chet Holmgren will terrorize the cap sheet. What’s the optimal plan for the present with that future in mind?
How OKC Thunder Should Utilize Cap Space Now
The OKC Thunder are quickly transforming into a perennial contender, and one significant addition could boost them into serious contention this season. However, OKC cannot afford to add hefty contracts that extend to the 2026-27 season.
The ideal target is an All-Star two-way wing on a bargain contract for the next three seasons. Brooklyn Nets star Mikal Bridges perfectly fits the description, and it’s not unreasonable that they would move him for a massive offer.
Though, They reportedly turned down four first round picks at the deadline, but that’s child’s play for the OKC Thunder, who own 11 first round picks and a swap in the next four drafts. Though, all indications are that the Nets want to build around Bridges. A trade framework could revolve around the following:
- Mikal Bridges
- Dorian Finney-Smith
- Davis Bertans
- Victor Oladipo
- Ousmane Dieng
- Aleksej Pokusevski
- Tre Mann
- As many future first round picks as it takes
Bridges is an elite perimeter defender, three-point shooter, and scorer that provides yet another option for OKC’s offense. Meanwhile, the Thunder fielded a rock-solid defense last season, and they now add Bridges, Holmgren, and Wallace. Losing Dieng stings, but it would have been difficult for OKC to pay him since he enters free agency with Holmgren and Jalen Williams.
With this trade, the Thunder would have the following deadly playoff rotation:
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Mikal Bridges, Jalen Williams, and Chet Holmgren
- Micic, Joe, Dort, Kenrich Williams, Jaylin Williams
- Wallace, Wiggins, Finney-Smith
It’s filled with self-shot creation, playmaking, defense, shooting, and depth at all levels. The Thunder would immediately vault into championship contender status for the next few seasons. OKC’s cap sheet also remains relatively clean, as they would hover around the salary cap mark for the next two seasons before jumping to the tax line in the 2025-26 season due to Giddey’s new deal. Bridges enters free agency with Holmgren and Jalen Williams, so the Thunder could maximize his prime years (27-29) before parting ways.
Overall, OKC must efficiently use their cap flexibility before it’s completely diminished in 2026. A win-now veteran is the ideal path because there is no need for further asset accumulation, and Bridges checks every box. It’s time to finally cash in and make the Godfather offer to Brooklyn.
Editors note: In all likelihood, the OKC Thunder will elect to remain patient and not make a splash-y trade. Though, Mikal Bridges is certainly an appealing player to target for this group.