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Thunder (Luguentz Dort), Rockets (Jae’Sean Tate) surprisingly decline team options

Jae'Sean Tate and Luguentz Dort in NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets

Nov 29, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets forward Jae’Sean Tate (8) drives against Oklahoma City Thunder forward Luguentz Dort (5) in the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Thunder with Lu Dort and Rockets with Jae’Sean Tate faced similar decisions with their team options:

Keep the player on a bargain minimum salary for next season (exercise option)


Make the player a restricted free agent this offseason (decline option)

Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti said he’d exercise Dort’s option. Houston was reportedly to do the same with Tate.

But apparently both teams changed course at the last moment.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Most likely, neither the Thunder with Dort nor the Rockets with Tate would let the players hit free agency early without new deals already lined up.

Both teams are rebuilding and have little urgency to add win-now players this offseason. So, the teams have money available to pay the players more next season then – in exchange for that early raise – less than they would’ve paid otherwise in future seasons.

For example, say Dort and the Thunder agree he’s worth $50 million over the next four years. If Oklahoma City exercised Dort’s $1,930,681 team option for next season and his valuation remained steady next year, that’d mean paying him $48,069,319 over the following three years.

This way, the Thunder could pay Dort $14 million next season – and just $36 million over the following three years. It might even be less in the future years, as Dort should value getting a raise next season rather than having to wait until the following season.

The opportunity cost of paying Dort more next season looks low. Though it’s unclear how Oklahoma City will look in future years, there’s always a chance that down-the-road saving would be extremely helpful. So, why not pay more now?

Houston faces somewhat different calculus with Tate. Unlike Dort, who would’ve been an unrestricted free agent in 2023 with his option exercised, Tate would’ve been a restricted free agent next year, too. So, the Rockets had even less reason to let Tate hit free agency early – unless he has already agreed to a team-friendly deal in exchange for a quicker raise.

Considering that looked like the reason for the Thunder to decline Dort’s option, that really looks like the reason for Houston to decline Tate’s.