Oklahoma City Thunder Free Agency Update
As known by Oklahoma City and NBA fans everywhere, this offseason would be an enormous one for the Thunder organization. With so many questions heading into the NBA draft and free agency, OKC had a small margin for error this offseason. Would the Thunder trade up in this loaded NBA draft? Would Paul George still call Oklahoma City home? Though these momentous questions worried plenty of Thunder fans, they were answered rather quickly in this action-packed NBA offseason.
The arrival of the NBA draft brought forth many theories involving the Thunder. Some fans assumed that if the Thunder chose to deal a key asset in order to move up in this highly talented draft, it would mean that the team was heading into rebuild mode. Some also thought if the Thunder decided to trade up, it merely meant the team wanted a young talent to place alongside Russell Westbrook and company. Though this was highly speculated, the Thunder were never involved in any draft day rumors. This held true as OKC kept their 53rd and 57th picks in the second round, while also trading for the rights to Kentucky guard Hamidou Diallo, who was selected at pick 45. Diallo averaged 10 points per game at Kentucky and is a great gamble for OKC. Picked in the middle of the second round, Diallo will not have too much expectation, especially on a playoff bound team. If he can develop his outside shot, Diallo could become a very effective offensive talent.
With the 53rd pick, Oklahoma City selected guard Devon Hall from Virginia. Hall is not the most athletic player in the world but has the tools to become a very good “3 and D” player in the NBA. Hall always defended the best opposing player for the Cavaliers and shot 43% from distance. The Thunder will attempt to mold him to be what Thabo Sefolosha once was for the team, a lockdown defender who can knock down open threes. The last selection of the night for Oklahoma City was used on UT Arlington's all-time rebounder Kevin Hervey. Hervey tore his ACL his sophomore season but responded the next year by winning Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. Hervey had a terrific year last season as well, averaging 21 points and 9 rebounds per game. Hervey will look to make himself known as an athletic stretch four in the NBA. Though the Thunder did not select any big names in this year’s draft, General Manager Sam Presti did a solid job on selecting players who fit the needs and culture of the Oklahoma City organization.
With this year’s free agency period being the most important for the franchise since the year of Kevin Durant’s departure, the Thunder could not afford to lose another marquee free agent. When Sam Presti made the trade for all-star swingman Paul George, he had a vision that given a full season, George would fall in love with the organization. With rumors swirling that the California native wished to join his hometown Lakers, Thunder fans worried they would be betrayed once again by a star player. As July first loomed closer and closer, reports surfaced that Paul George was leaning towards staying in Oklahoma. Nonetheless, these reports did not convince any Thunder fans, as they thought back to the reports that Kevin Durant wished to stay with the team. On the dawn of July 1st, however, every Thunder fans dreams came true when George was reported to be at a party thrown by Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. Quickly after, videos of George on stage holding a microphone surfaced, exclaiming to Thunder nation that “I’m here to stay!”
NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski later reported that George had signed a four year, $137 million-dollar deal to stay with OKC. Thunder fans rejoiced to the fact that George did not even have a meeting with the Lakers, and that Presti was able to ink the star small forward to four years. The Thunder proved the entirety of the NBA wrong, as everyone said that George was only a one-year rental for the Thunder, and that he would sign with LA come the offseason. As if the night could not get any better, Oklahoma City agreed to terms with forward Jerami Grant. The deal was worth $27 million dollars for three year. Grant played tremendous with the Thunder last season as an athletic wing off the bench, while also getting time at center in the Thunder’s small ball lineup. Grant will look to have an even bigger contribution next season, especially if the Thunder decide to let go of veteran Carmelo Anthony.
Two days after signing George and Grant, Oklahoma City agreed to terms with Mavericks center Nerlens Noel. Noel and the team agreed to a two-year deal, with the second year being a player option. Noel will be paid the veterans minimum at $1.7 million. This signing ended Noel’s abysmal tenure in Dallas, where he never found a groove and often feuded with coach Rick Carlisle. Noel will play the role of backup center for OKC and has a skill set that compliments starting center Steven Adams. The Thunder’s hope is that Noel can be an athletic shot blocker who can turn the tide of the game off the bench.
The Thunder’s latest move involved the resigning of experienced point guard Raymond Felton. Felton was signed to a one year, $2.4 million dollar deal. Raymond played excellent as the backup to Russell Westbrook last season. Though not the most efficient player, Felton’s basketball I.Q. and leadership helped the Thunder in more ways than seen on the stat page. Oklahoma City hopes Felton keeps up his good play off the bench as he enters the latter part of his career.
Oklahoma City has already been every active throughout the free agency period, and more moves could be on the way. However, if there are no more moves made by the team, this offseason has been an extremely successful one. Keeping a key asset like George in a small market is a tough thing to do, and latching onto key players like Grant, Noel and Felton will help to move the team into the right direction going into the 2018-19 season.