The Free Agency Profile for the Oklahoma City Thunder
*Photo via USA Today
Oklahoma City Thunder (45-37) – (2nd Northwest Division, 9th Western Conference)
Imagine 1.2 seconds left in regulation, tie game, road team’s ball, sideline out of bounds. The ball is inbounded to a lanky forward who gets the rock about 28 feet from the basket. He double-pumps to avoid the outstretched arm of the defender and lets it fly. Bang. K̶e̶v̶i̶n̶ ̶D̶u̶r̶a̶n̶t̶ ̶d̶r̶a̶i̶n̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶g̶a̶m̶e̶ ̶w̶i̶n̶n̶e̶r̶. Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans stuns the Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd in walk-off fashion and sends the Oklahoma City Thunder fishing in April.
Now this result came in early February, but it would have a major impact on the playoff race. Oklahoma City and New Orleans both ended up with 45-37 win-loss records, but only one of them squeezed into the playoffs as the 8th seed in the Western Conference. Davis’ buzzer beater ended up being the difference and OKC’s injury plagued season was over.
During training camp, the Thunder announced that reigning MVP, Kevin Durant, would miss time due to a Jones Fracture in his right foot. To make matters worse, All-NBA performer, Russell Westbrook, was sidelined with a fractured hand during the first week of the season. Along with KD and Westbrook, OKC started the season without Reggie Jackson, Anthony Morrow, Jeremy Lamb, and Mitch McGary.
The Thunder would make multiple moves throughout the season to position themselves to make the playoffs. Durant would return, but setbacks throughout the season limited him to just 27 games. Even though Westbrook would play MVP caliber basketball through multiple injuries, including a DENT IN HIS FACE, OKC was unable to overcome the early hole they had dug themselves.
OKC will be led by newly minted head coach, Billy Donovan, into the 2015-16 NBA season with a championship roster on paper, and a championship or bust attitude. No pressure.
Cap Space: None
Oklahoma City has $6,373,644 in luxury tax space.
C Enes Kanter (Restricted)
Kanter is a solid offensive big man who isn’t the best defender. OKC acquired Kanter via a midseason trade with the Utah Jazz because he gives them a true low post scorer. With the cap set to rise in 2016-17, I expect OKC to match offers for Kanter and bring him back.
F Kyle Singler (Restricted)
Singler is a sharpshooting wing who can space the floor for OKC. With OKC already having three-point specialists Anthony Morrow and Steve Novak in the mix, one would think Singler may be on his way out. The Thunder, however, have indicated that they want the versatile forward to return.
Team Needs: No major team needs as they drafted point guard Cameron Payne to be Westbrook’s long term backup and drafted Dakari Johnson in the second round.
Depth – With injuries decimating OKC last season, depth is crucial for this NBA championship ready roster
Possible Targets: OKC probably won’t be free agent shopping this summer but here are some options.
G/F Jeff Taylor – An athletic wing who would be an upgrade over Alvin Roberson as a three-and-D type player. Doesn’t shoot the three great, but could get plenty of open looks with Westbrook and KD on the floor.
G Wayne Ellington – Ellington can shoot the three, really well.
G Danny Green – Green can flat out shoot the three and can defend both guard positions and small forwards. Ideal player for OKC to go after, but probably cannot afford him.