NBA Free Agency: Oklahoma City Thunder Preview
What Happened Last Season:
The 2016/17 season was the year of Russell Westbrook. Everything the Oklahoma City Thunder did revolved around the enigmatic superstar, whether it was his pre-game fashion choices or his ridiculously mind-blowing exploits on the court, Broadie was his own one-man show. Westbrook averaged a god damn triple-double and is the heavy favourite for this season’s MVP going into the 2017 NBA Awards Show on Monday. It’s easy to forget that there are other players on this roster. The contributions from Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo (who signed a contract extensions earlier in the season) were somewhat underwhelming though the pickup of Taj Gibson through trade was a savvy move by Sam Presti and Co. The form of youngsters Domantas Sabonis, Jerami Grant and Alex Abrines was also promising. They may not be franchise pieces but they could certainly turn into decent rotation players given more natural development. Andre Roberson was again amazing defensively throughout the year though the guy still can’t make a shot to save his life. After bowing out to the Rockets in the playoffs, as a Thunder fan you’d consider the season a success
Upcoming Free Agents:
Unrestricted: Taj Gibson, Nick Collison, Norris Cole
Restricted: Andre Roberson
Potential Cap Space: $(13,483,871)
For the Thunder to push into the top-four in a loaded Western Conference they need more superstar power and someone who can make a jump shot. Russell Westbrook needs a number two. If the front office can’t cobble that together, they need to surround their superstar point guard with a bunch of shooters. Oladipo is an average 3-point shooter at best (he shot 36% from the field; the league average this year was 35.8%). Doug McDermott was a welcomed addition in that regard as he’s a known sharp shooter though consistency has been something he has struggled with (his 3-point shooting percentage was only marginally better than Oladipo at 36.2%). As for the team itself, during the 2016-17 regular season, they ranked 26th in 3-point makes (8.4) and were dead last in accuracy (32.7%). The team is hampered by a high payroll so the front office will need to make savvy signings on the cheap or look at making a trade or two during free agency to open up some cap space.
Swaggy P had a remarkable 2016/17 season. His 3-point shooting was off the charts (40.4%) and his points per game (13.2) were more than serviceable. He would slide in perfectly into OKC’s as a great scoring option coming off the bench (the team’s 3-point percentage from their bench unit is 27th in the league at 32.1%). Plus who wouldn’t want to see Russ and Swaggy on the same team, swag levels would be through the roof.
This would make sense in so many ways. OKC crave a backup point guard, shooting and an all-round scoring option. Mills has all these things. While he is likely to fetch a relatively sizeable contract offer from a team craving his services the Thunder could do worse than throw some cash his way. The Aussie sharpshooter averaged 9.5 points per game off of a touch under 22 minutes last year. He would certainly ease the scoring burden Westbrook is under on a nightly basis.
Lawson would be a cheaper version of what Mills could offer. In fact his scoring was marginally better than the Spurs guard (9.9 per game) though his 3-point shooting pales in comparison (28.8%). He also averaged a very respectable 4.9 assists per game in 2016/17. If you’re looking for a respectable veteran point-guard, OKC could do worse than inquire about the services of the Kings backup.
Griffin recently opted out of the remaining year of his contract with the Clippers. The human highlight reel has been constantly linked to Oklahoma due to his hometown connection. For the Thunder to acquire the power forward though they would need to make some serious cap room or facilitate a sign and trade with the Clips (which seems highly unlikely).