• Russell Schmidt

NBA Future Power Rankings: 24. Oklahoma City Thunder

*Photo via Getty Images

Oklahoma City Thunder: Nearly two weeks into free agency OKC has not signed a single free agent and has only lost one player. Unfortunately, that player happened to be former MVP Kevin Durant. There is no need to overanalyze Durant’s departure. Any time you lose a top-5 player in the league in the midst of his prime (Durant is just 27) your franchise will inevitably take a huge step backward. The blame for Durant’s decision can be argued, but what’s done is done. Durant is now a member of the Warriors. Sam Presti has made many good and bad moves in his tenure with the Thunder, but Durant’s exit has put an irrevocable negative verdict on Presti’s legacy. Presti deserves credit for acquiring all of these players, but in the end he couldn’t retain them. In 2011-12 the Thunder had just been defeated in what appeared to be the first of many NBA finals appearances. That roster had Kevin Durant (24 years old), Russell Westbrook (23), James Harden (23), Serge Ibaka (23), and Reggie Jackson (22). To have five players of this caliber with (at the time) no injury history and all under 25 years old gave the Thunder the looks of league’s newest dynasty. Now, 5 seasons later, the Thunder have failed to reach the finals let alone win a championship. Of the aforementioned 5 players, Westbrook is the only one that remains and he is likely to leave via free agency next season (that is if he isn’t traded beforehand). Other than Durant’s departure, the other big move for the Thunder this offseason was the Ibaka trade. For Ibaka the Magic received Domantas Sabonis (11th pick of the draft), Victor Oladipo, and Ersan Ilyasova. Ibaka, who was on an expiring contract, had reportedly made it clear he was unhappy with his role and was planning on leaving the following season. All things considered, it’s hard to believe OKC got this much value for him. Oladipo’s acquisition likely means the end of the Dion Waiters experiment. Waiters, a restricted free agent, could still be retained, but Oladipo is a big upgrade and still has a year left under his rookie contract. Next offseason the Thunder will be forced to pay big contracts to Oladipo and center Steven Adams. Both players will be restricted free agents and likely represent the future in OKC. Another damper for the Thunder is they still owe the Jazz a lottery protected 2018 1st round pick from the Enes Kanter trade. There are definitely teams in worse situations than the Thunder, but it is still hard to believe how far such a promising franchise has fallen.

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