The Oklahoma City Thunder manage their salary cap as well as any team in the NBA, and on Monday, they made a thrifty move to add a possible long-term contributor. The Thunder signed Real Madrid forward Gabriel Deck to a four-year, $14.5 million contract that will serve a number of purposes for them moving forward.
The practical cost to the Thunder is, essentially, nothing. Oklahoma City was roughly $4 million below the NBA’s salary floor prior to signing Deck to this deal. When a team doesn’t reach the floor, it makes up the difference through bonuses to its other players. They were going to have to spend that money anyway, so they did so by adding a prospect. There is little long-term risk in doing so, though, as Andrew Schlect of The Athletic is reporting that the last three years of the deal are all non-guaranteed. The Thunder had roughly $3.87 million left of their mid-level exception, and those exceptions do not carry over between seasons. The Thunder could either use it or lose it, and they used it to essentially get up to the salary floor and protect themselves against paying their existing players extra.
That allows them to get a look at Deck, a 26-year-old all-around forward from Argentina, with no downside. His most impressive international performance came in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, where he averaged 13.9 points per game for an Argentinian team that walked away with the silver medal.
It is exceedingly rare for NBA teams to sign foreign players to multi-year deals in the middle of the season, but the Thunder have been pioneers on this front. In 2008, they nabbed Nenad Kristic, a former Nets center who had returned to Europe, on a three-year deal using leftover cap space.
Krstic was a proven NBA commodity when the Thunder signed him. Deck is not, but he doesn’t need to be. The Thunder have taken on no long-term risk by signing him, and they’ve given themselves a chance to evaluate him up close for the rest of a lost season. It’s hard to do better with the money they had to spend anyway.