Will the Thunder pay up for a championship?

Last week we talked about how much the Los Angeles Lakers will have to pay in taxes if they want to keep the team they currently have together. It’s a lot of money but the Lakers might think it’s worth it if they can take home a title. Plus, it’s Los Angeles and paying that much money would not be impossible or unheard of.

It’s a different story in Oklahoma City. The Thunder have some of the best fans in the league, but they’re not the rich, celebrity clientele that the Lakers have, so paying extra money for a championship might not be as easily done.

The Thunder have already signed Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant to max deals and Serge Ibaka to a pretty fat contract as well. Next year, they’ll have to re-sign restricted free agent James Harden, who will surely get some max offers from other teams.

This will put them in a sticky financial situation.

“Under the harsh new tax rates that kick in for the 2013-14 — just in time! — the Thunder would be paying a tax bill ranging from $7.5 million to $12.5 million or so, depending on the exact tax level and how much the team’s ownership is willing to spend on the back of the roster. Is Oklahoma City, the league’s second-smallest market, willing to spend something like $85 million or even $90 million to fill a team?”

It’s not nearly as much as the Lakers but are the Thunder willing to put up the cash for a title that wouldn’t even be guaranteed? If Oklahoma City decides they’d rather save their money, they’d probably end up with a good team, but not one that can compete with the Lakers or the Heat. However, even if they do pay the price for better players, there’s no assurance that it will pay off in the end because they still might not be able to match up with the league’s powerhouses.

It’s a tough position to be in. I have a feeling the Thunder will find a way to spend some extra bucks to keep competitive. What’s a few million dollars here and there anyway?