The Thunder’s deal with Hamidou Diallo isn’t without upside, but it’s definitely a risky proposition.
Earlier Wednesday, the Thunder signed Hamidou Diallo to a three-year, $4 million contract. This brings their roster to 15 players with guaranteed contracts and given the luxury tax implications of waiving one of those players to sign another, it’s likely that they’ve completed their offseason.
But that contract says a lot about their view on Hamidou Diallo. Since it’s three years in duration, it has to have come out of the taxpayer mid-level exception.
In other words, the Thunder took the only cap exception that they have to add talent to a team that already wasn’t good enough last year and gave up Carmelo Anthony for nothing (perhaps to their own benefit).
It makes that exception a little bit weaker because they believed in Diallo that much. They chose Diallo over anyone left on the market and potentially over adding a veteran on the buyout market.
And more importantly than just the first-year consequences, the Thunder made a bet that his Bird rights will be valuable three years down the road.
Going from a second year to a third means the contract can be hit with something called the Arenas provision, which is responsible for, say, Tyler Johnson’s ugly contract, which frontloaded the money because that was all the Heat could afford at the time.
With a potential third year of team control, the Thunder don’t just bet on that one extra year, but on the next contract as well.
It’s not like the Thunder were without alternatives either. They also had Kevin Hervey and Devon Hall — two much safer bets, more likely to contribute to a playoff team next year — as other second-round picks.
They could have signed another veteran at an increased cost, since there’s about a $700,000 difference in the first-year amount for any free agent that you didn’t spend a draft pick on, but that would have probably been the best option for truly making a roster built to compete now better.
Even if they were dead set on Diallo, only placing a two-year bet on a player as potentially volatile as Diallo is also viable.
But instead, they chose to place a strong bet on a player that amateur scouts were all over the place on, one that can only be classified as a high-risk asset. Now they get to wait and hope that it pays dividends.