The long-standing national nightmare is over with. It was once thought that a protracted stand-off would lead to sanctions and eventually war. But cooler heads prevailed and Terrance Ferguson was finally granted clearance from FIBA. That clearance will allow Ferguson to sign his rookie contract. Every other first rounder from the 2017 Draft has already signed their contracts.
But this is where it gets weird. According to Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript, Ferguson has been cleared since July 14th. So why hasn’t he signed his contract? There could be several theories as to why Ferguson has yet to put pen to paper.
Theory No. 1 – Thunder looking to include Ferguson in a trade
Over the past week, it was rumored that Oklahoma City and New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony were mutually interested in each other. Now, take that with a grain of salt, as every report from Anthony’s camp have him heavily leaning towards joining Chris Paul in Houston. But if the Thunder were to be given the opportunity to vie for Anthony’s services, one of the assets they could trade is an athletic rookie who looks like the prototypical wing for this pace and space NBA.
If Ferguson were to sign his contract, the Thunder would need to wait 30 days before they could trade his contract. But as an unsigned rookie, Ferguson is basically viewed as a non-salaried asset. He would basically be like all those 2nd round Europeans that are after-thoughts in trade deadline deals. (Team A trades Player X into Team B’s salary cap. In exchange, Team B trades a 2nd rounder and the rights to “random European player who was drafted 5 years earlier in the 2nd round” to Team A)
Theory No. 2 – Contract Negotiations
Ferguson is represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. Paul, who is extremely close to LeBron James, is known to hold players out until they get the maximum available to them from their teams. Recent examples have been Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, and Eric Bledsoe. All three players went late into the off-season before the team blinked and the deals got signed.
With rookies, it’s a little different though. There is already a set amount to start negotiations. From that amount, players can sign from 20% under the allotted amount to 20% over the allotted amount. Most rookies sign for 120%. But some teams insist on negotiating with their rookies, especially if they are bumping up against the luxury tax.
I don’t know if that is the case with the Thunder. They are definitely above the luxury tax line and every dollar bumps up their luxury tax bill that much more. If the Thunder are looking to negotiate Ferguson’s rookie contract, they probably chose the wrong player to do that with.
Theory No. 3 – The Thunder are keeping their options open until the trade winds pass
It could just be a situation where the Thunder are looking to keep their options open as long as possible. If there is a possibility to get someone like Anthony or, say, Kevin Love, then keeping Ferguson unsigned will make that transaction much easier. It’s not like Ferguson can sign with another team. The Thunder hold his rights until they don’t. With all that said, once the trade rumors pass, I could see Ferguson signing his contract the next day.