OKC Thunder: What’s Next?

The Oklahoma City Thunder were knocked out of the playoffs Tuesday night, and Westbrook’s awe-inspiring MVP candidacy came to a close. It was one for the books, and arguably the best single player season we’ve seen in years.

The season is over for this team, but a chance to do it all over again, lies in free agency.

Who should be the Oklahoma City top targets?

Russell Westbrook

is eligible to sign an extension this summer, near the area of $200-million. As of right now, he’s signed only through 2017-2018, with a player option following. Look for the OKC front office to at least offer him one shortly. Should he sign or not, will determine what follows, regarding free agency and off-season trades.

Strength and Weakness

The Thunder as a team shot (32.7%) from behind the arc, the worst in the league. Adding a three-point shooter is imperative in bolstering this team. Russell himself is capable of making (or not making) clutch shots in crunch time, but aside from him they don’t really have any three-point threats. Alex Abrines is their best percentage wise, shooting (38%), but he was just (5-17) from deep against Houston.

From the other end of the floor, the Thunder flourished, and were the best rebounding team in the league, averaging (46.6), including (12.2) offensive boards a game. Steven Adams has been trustworthy in the paint, and more importantly with his free throws. Enes Kanter, their other big man, saw a decline in play over the playoffs, and may have earned himself a one-way ticket out of Oklahoma.

This young Thunder team is not bad , and coaching should invest in the younger role players (Abrines, Sabonis, and Grant). Current roster changes? My take:

  • Kanter is rapidly losing value, and needs to be traded while teams still hold interest.
  • Gibson will likely leave in the off season, and that’s OK, he was brought in for a purpose.
  • The team option needs to be exercised on Jerami Grant, who showed nothing short of great potential against Houston.

As for free agency, I think posting one big name to the roster is ideal, and here’s who I had in mind:

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Otto Porter Jr. 

has been one of the best shooters in the game, shooting (43%) from deep this year. After He’s not a huge scorer, averaging only (13.4) points, but he’s efficient. This young forward can be counted on for open looks, and he’s only going to get better.

Otto isn’t the best talent on the market, but he’s got a specific purpose, and will likely come at the cheapest price (in comparison).

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Blake Griffin

would be monstrous on pick and rolls with Russell. After spending six years with the Clippers, it’s rumored Griffin will clear free agency in hopes of a championship. Averaging (21.6) points and (8.1) rebounds per game, Griffin would help relieve pressure off of Westbrook, and add another reliable scorer.

Blake Griffin was an Oklahoma native from birth until getting drafted by the Clippers. Would it be that much of a surprise to see an NBA star’s homecoming?* Signing Griffin would be expensive, but thanks to Kevin Durant, the Thunder have some extra change.

*LeBron to Cleveland, Dwayne to Chicago*

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Rudy Gay

I know what you’re thinking. Oh, Rudy Gay, please not this again. However, I still have faith in Rudy, who only played 30 games this year. After ten seasons, he is still averaging (18.7) points and (1.5) steals per game. Although he tore his Achilles, Gay told the press he was feeling “great” and “ahead of schedule” following the Kings’ season finale.

Gay has a player option for the following season, and will likely be paid the most through Sacramento. However, with the shit show they’re holding, could you blame him for doing a little market test? If nothing else, Rudy will be a cheap one-year experiment. There won’t be a huge market for him, but the Thunder are looking for a stretch forward and scorer.

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Gordon Hayward

has broken out as a star this year, and right on time, as he faces free agency. Hayward would be a great addition to the Thunder, and shot just under forty-percent from three with (39%). Adding Gordon would help to stretch the floor, and wouldn’t draw too many shots away from Russell. He’s a consistent scorer, and is likely to hit even more threes with Westbrook dropping him open looks.

With things going so well in Utah, it’s unlikely he’ll depart a developing threat. Should he though, I have no doubt he’ll consider the Thunder.

In Conclusion

the Thunder have prepared themselves as a top free agent destination. I don’t doubt other role players will be acquired by trade, but these should be top priority in free agency.

Gordon, Blake, Rudy, or Otto. You hear me Sam Presti? Make it happen.

All stats and information provided by ESPN and NBA.com. 

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