For the Oklahoma City Thunder, the month of July brings to mind Kevin Durant walking away three years ago.
It’s the month of the Paul George trade in 2017, then the arguably bigger development of signing him to a longer deal the following year.
It’s been a month of gain, loss and anxiety.
But the Thunder’s 2019 NBA free agency, for now, seems quiet. The frenzy that begins at 5 p.m. Sunday will mostly focus on other organization’s stars such as Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving.
Here are five things to know about how the upcoming free agency period relates to OKC.
1. The Thunder aren’t rich. The organization has nearly $147 million in guaranteed salary on its books for 2019-20, with George and Westbrook accounting for nearly 50 percent of it. (No longer on the roster, Kyle Singler accounts for almost $1 million of dead cap space.)
OKC has -$40.7 million in practical cap space. It has $10.8 million left over from a trade exception with Carmelo Anthony, according to Spotrac, and that exception will expire on July 25.
The Thunder have a mid-level exception of $5.7 million available, but exhausting that would be extremely costly due to luxury taxes.
2. One small chip fell earlier this week. Nerlens Noel will become an unrestricted free agent after choosing not to pick up his $1.9 million 2019-20 player option, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Noel averaged 4.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in about 12 minutes per night for OKC last season. He could re-sign with the Thunder but might find a better deal for himself elsewhere.
3. Raymond Felton and Markieff Morris are OKC’s free agents who’ve yet to opt into contracts.
Felton, who at 34-years-old averaged 11.5 minutes and 4.3 points last season, has shown interest in returning ahead of his 17th year in the league.
Morris said during his exit interview he was unhappy with his playing time in OKC. He joined the team before the trade deadline and the Thunder will likely struggle to re-sign him.
4. It’s clear what OKC wants in the offseason.
General manager Sam Presti still presumably wants better shooting. OKC shot 34.8 percent from 3-point range in 2018-19, ranking 22nd out of 30 teams in the league.
Finding someone in the offseason who can shoot 35 to 40 percent from 3 would be the best-case scenario.
5. George, Westbrook and Steven Adams are all under contract until at least 2020-21. So while the Thunder don’t appear capable of signing much more than a role player — though Presti pulled George out of his hat three years ago — there’s at least a sense that the core is coming back.
That is, unless Presti decides to deal Adams, which is a report that has been batted around. Adams, Dennis Schroeder and Andre Roberson all fall under that category as OKC tries to cut its payroll down.