Tag Archives: Pau Gasol

The Three That Will Never Be: The Legacies of Scott Brooks, Kendrick Perkins, and Derek Fisher

ibaka perkins durant fisher thunder

As the Oklahoma City Thunder embark on a new season, some of the same things from the past still remains. First off, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, and Russell Westbrook should all be back and healthy. Secondly, the expectations of winning a championship will also be there. But for some reason this season feels different. Not a bad different, just a “lack of familiarity” type different. Something was missing, and that something was three component that had been a part of the Thunder for all or parts for their 7 seasons in Oklahoma City. Those three components were Derek Fisher, Kendrick Perkins, and Scott Brooks.

For 7 seasons prior, one or more of those pieces were always there to provide an anchor of calmness even in the most choppiest of seas. For the first time since the Thunder moved to Oklahoma City, neither of those three will be a part of the Thunder organization. From the time Scott Brooks took over for PJ Carlesimo on November 22, 2008, the organization has relied on his calming demeanor and almost fatherly-like approach to the development of the stars of the team. That approach to coaching is one of the reasons Brooks will be highly sought after once he decides to return to coaching. Teams are always in one of three phases in their developments: rebuilding, learning how to win consistently, and contending for a championship. Brooks mastered the first two phases of that process with relative ease, taking the Thunder from one of the worst teams in the league to championship contending in a four year span. That type of ascension is almost unheard of without the help of a superstar free agent being signed by the team.

What Brooks lacked in coaching acumen, he made up for with his interpersonal relationships with his players. Say what you want about his late-game play calling, but the players on the team would run through a wall for Brooks. Many in the media heap praise upon Phil Jackson for his career, but Jackson was never known as a great X’s and O’s coach. He had great assistants (Tex Winters, Jim Cleamons), and more importantly, great players. But he was also one of the best at managing superstar egos, which falls under the realm of interpersonal relationships. Brooks could have had a Jackson-like career, but lacked great assistants, and his great players were just coming into their prime during his tenure. Instead, Brooks will likely have a Doug Collins-like career as a coach that could have been one of the greats, but just happened to be the coach at the wrong time.

When the Thunder were starting their ascension, most of the upper echelon teams in the Western Conference had All-Star or near All-Star level centers and power forwards. The Los Angeles Lakers had Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. San Antonio had Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. Memphis had Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Dallas had Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitzki, and Brendan Haywood. Utah had Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. To contend in the Western Conference at that time, a team needed a big body in the middle that could defend and rebound. In their early run, the Thunder had a front line of Nenad Krstic, Jeff Green, and an “even skinnier than he is now” Kevin Durant. They had Serge Ibaka on the bench, but he was still pretty raw during that time and had trouble keeping his fouls under control. It wasn’t until the Thunder met the Lakers in the inaugural playoff run in 2010 that they realized what they needed to continue the upward trend of the team’s development.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 09: Head coach Scott Brooks of the Oklahoma City Thunder talks with Russell Westbrook #0 and Kevin Durant #35 against the Los Angeles Clippers in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 9, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The Thunder won 118-112. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

At the trade deadline the next season, the Thunder traded Green and Krstic to the Boston Celtics for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson. Even though Perkins was coming off a serious knee injury he suffered in the previous season’s Finals, he was the defensive anchor the team so badly needed. A couple weeks after arriving in Oklahoma City, the Thunder extended Perkins for four more seasons. Perkins immediately became the veteran presence the Thunder’s young players needed. He graciously helped in the development of Ibaka, taking his own experience from when Kevin Garnett took him under his wing in Boston and applying that to Ibaka. He gave the team a mean streak they didn’t have before his arrival. He quickly became the locker room buffering agent between all the Thunder’s young players as they learned how to succeed in the NBA individually and as a team (a major downfall of many young, up and coming teams in the past).

He was a great locker room presence. And if he was getting paid $5 million or less, that would have been fine. But in actuality, he was one of the highest paid players on the team and his performance on the court, especially on the offensive end, was often one of the most polarizing themes in sports. The knee injury he suffered while with the Celtics in the Finals the year before sapped the little bit of athleticism Perkins had going for him. While he was one of the best post defenders in the league, he was often a net negative on offense. As the NBA’s moved towards smaller, more skilled line-ups that could space the floor, the effectiveness of Perkins on the floor became more and more muted with each passing season.  When athletic power forwards started masquerading as centers, the need for a hulking presence down low became almost non-existant.

Compounding the polarization of Perkins was the trade of James Harden to Houston. Many thought the reason the Thunder traded Harden was purely financial, as they couldn’t afford to have 4 players on max or near max salaries (Harden, Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka), along with Perkins’ $9 million annual salary. In addition to the trade itself, the fact the Thunder had the opportunity to waive Perkins under the amnesty provision, provided the framework for the “Thunder choosing Perkins over Harden” frame of thought that many in the media portrayed. In reality, the Harden trade had little to nothing to do with Perkins. Harden wanted to have his cake and eat it too, wanting max money and the opportunity to run his own team.

In the end, Perkins was relegated to being a back-up big in his final season with the Thunder before being traded to Utah for Enes Kanter. His tenure with the Thunder will forever be remembered for his defensive chops, menacing scowl, and “Shaq-tin a fool” moments. But his presence on the team forever shaped the maturation of Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka. He helped navigate them through their first few seasons of success and kept them even-keeled.

The signing of a veteran is a rite of passage for a team that is moving into championship contending status. A veteran that has been where the players on the team want to be and has played a big part in previous championship games. That veteran for the Thunder was Derek Fisher. At the beginning of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, the Thunder lost back-up point guard Eric Maynor to a torn ACL. The only other point guard on the roster, besides Westbrook, was rookie Reggie Jackson. The Thunder managed for half a season with the rookie taking on back-up point guard duties, but when the opportunity arose to sign a waived Fisher, they pounced on the opportunity. Fisher paid almost immediate dividends as a calming, veteran presence and as a floor spacer.

Fisher went on to be part of the Thunder for the next two seasons after that one. He basically played the same role in each of the seasons as he attempted to capture that elusive 6th championship ring. Fisher never got that ring, but became, a lot like Perkins, a revered and respected figure in the locker room. A championship point guard his entire career, Fisher went on to retire and immediately became the head coach of the New York Knicks who were being run by Fisher’s former coach, Phil Jackson.

There’s a point in every player’s maturation where they eventually become the veteran. They become the guy that “has been there before” or “has seen it all before”. The Thunder brass probably felt like Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka were ready to take the next leg of their journey on their own. They had grown under the watchful guise of Brooks, under the sturdy hand of Perkins, and under the guiding presence of Fisher to become what they are today. Sure they’ve faced some injury difficulties along the way, but those also have a way of toughening up a players’ resolve.

As fans, we always cheer for the superstars. But true fans cheer for the guys who make it despite their obvious flaws. The guys who are the bedrock over which championship sod is laid upon. There’s a sense of commonality between those players and someone who works a 9-5 and goes home everyday to a family and a mortgage. There’s a very real possibility the Thunder win a championship without any of those three guys within the organization. If that does occur, three of those championship rings better be sealed in a box and delivered to New York, NY (Fisher), Beaumont, TX (Perkins), and northern California (Brooks), because the DNA of any Thunder championship will definitely have the imprint of those three on it.

Chicago Bulls vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 66 of 82)

westbrook thunder noah bulls

  • When: Sunday, 15 March 2015 at 12:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

One of the things the trade deadline did for the Oklahoma City Thunder was give them the option to play in a variety of manners. The time where Oklahoma City’s roster was littered with one-way players has gone by the way side. In its stead, the Thunder now have a roster full of players that, while not necessarily top notch on either end of the floor, are usually able to be net-positives in their time on the floor. In that same token, if a certain player is struggling, then another is waiting in the wing to pick up the slack. That overall depth is something that has been lacking since the days of James Harden, Eric Maynor, and Daequan Cook. And even though the Thunder played a team that could possibly end up with the first pick in the next draft in their last game, that depth is the reason why the Thunder were able to survive a line-up shuffle that saw them with Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka.

This is the 2nd, and final, meeting of the season between these two teams. The Chicago Bulls won a thriller a week and a half ago, 108-105, on an unlikely E’Twaun Moore 3-pointer in the final seconds of the game. The Thunder wasted a 43 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists masterpiece by Russell Westbrook, as the defense could not hold on to the 7 points lead they had going into the 4th quarter.

The Opponent

gasol noah mirotic bulls

The Chicago Bulls come into this game with a 40-27 record, good for 4th in the Eastern Conference. Since they last met the Thunder, they’ve gone on to lose 4 of their next 5 games. Their problem in that span has largely been defense, as they have given up an uncharacteristic 102.2 points per game in that stretch. With Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, and Jimmy Butler still sidelined, the Bulls will have to depend on their defense to win games. The patch work back-court of Aaron Brooks and Tony Snell have kept the Bulls afloat with their occasional good games, and Mike Dunleavy Jr has provided the perimeter threat the Bulls lacked when he and Doug McDermott were out with injuries earlier in the season. Up front, Joakim Noah has been a bit hobbled, but will likely play in Sunday’s game. Pau Gasol continues to have one of his better season, posting 18.4 points and 12.1 boards per game. Off the bench, rookie of the year candidate Nikola Mirotic has been a revelation of late, averaging 15.2 points and 7.2 rebounds since the All-Star break.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Chicago Bulls

  • PG – Aaron Brooks
  • SG – Tony Snell
  • SF – Mike Dunleavy Jr.
  • PF – Pau Gasol
  • C – Joakim Noah

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Dion Waiters
  • PF – Mitch McGary
  • C – Enes Kanter

Three Things

1. Line-Up Changes – From now until the beginning of the game, there may be a lot of moving parts. Serge Ibaka (knee), Enes Kanter (knee), and Steven Adams (hip) all sat out practice on Saturday. Joakim Noah was extremely hobbled in their last game with a knee ailment and may be a game time decision. As I wrote in the opening paragraph of the preview, the Thunder are a lot better equipped to handle these types of situations now than they have been in the past.

2. Turnovers – More specifically, Russell Westbrook’s turnovers. Westbrook is averaging 9 turnovers per game in the last 3 games. For as great as he has been, he could be better. Westbrook’s turnovers are usually of the live-ball variety, which increase the opponent’s transition opportunities. If Westbrook could maybe cut that average down to 4, the Thunder will be able to hold on to leads and cut into deficits a lot better.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Chicago Bulls

3. Nikola Mirotic – The Thunder had no answer for Mirotic in their first meeting. Even though he didn’t shoot it great from outside, he controlled the action offensively. The Thunder bigs were afraid of his ability to make 3’s, so they flashed out everytime he got the ball on the perimeter. And when he pump-faked, they jumped. He is quickly becoming a prime-time player, and Thunder will have to find someone to keep him in check.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Chicago Bulls preview (Game 62 of 82)

Chicago Bulls v Oklahoma City Thunder

  • When: Thursday, 05 March 2015 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: United Center, Chicago, IL

The Thunder had a whale of a fight last night from an unexpectedly game opponent. The Philadelphia 76ers don’t necessarily strike fear in the hearts of many teams in the league. But last night, the Sixers chose the Thunder to be their “NBA Finals Game 7” opponent. They shot 43% from deep with 15 makes. They took 44 free throws. They grabbed 16 offensive boards and out-rebounded the leading rebounding team by 4. They did all this, and yet, the Thunder still found a way to pull it out. The Thunder lose this game earlier in the season. It helps when a team has a peak performance Russell Westbrook on their roster. But it also helps when the depth of the team allows the back up point guard and shooting guard to be the 2nd and 3rd leading scorers on the team on a night when no starter, sans Westbrook, had double figures. The win last night will go a long way to solidifying the mindset of the Thunder moving forward. Everyone can contribute; everyone is needed.

This is the first meeting of the season between these two clubs. The Thunder swept the season series last year, winning both games by a margin of 12 points.

The Opponent

Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol

The Chicago Bulls come into the game with a 38-23 record, good for 2nd in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls are singing the same song they’ve sung that last 2 seasons: injuries to key players, good defensive unit, great effort, likely to fall short in the playoffs. The Bulls have improved offensively this season, scoring 101.2 points per game, good for 11th in the league. But the story of the season is still the injuries. Derrick Rose is out 4-6 weeks with a torn meniscus. Jimmy Butler is out 3-6 weeks with a sprained elbow. Taj Gibson is out 1-2 weeks with a sprained ankle. The team is currently starting a backcourt of Aaron Brooks and Tony Snell. That should tell you a lot about the current state of the Bulls. On the other wing, veteran Mike Dunleavy has returned from his own injury and continues to provide steady play from the 3 spot. Up front, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah form one of the better front court duos in the league. The injuries have sapped a lot of the Bulls’ depth, leaving rookie Nikola Mirotic and Kirk Heinrich as the only dependable players off the bench.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Chicago Bulls

  • PG – Aaron Brooks
  • SG – Tony Snell
  • SF – Mike Dunleavy Jr.
  • PF – Pau Gasol
  • C – Joakim Noah

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kyle Singler
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Enes Kanter

3 Keys to the Game

1. Guard Play – This game will be won in the backcourt. The Thunder have a decided advantage with Westbrook, Roberson, Dion Waiters, and DJ Augustin. Brooks and Heinrich are veterans, but have their short-comings and Snell is prone to mistakes.

2. Rebounding – This is a match-up of the top two rebounding teams in the league. The 76ers staying the game with the Thunder with their offensive rebounding and 3-point shooting. Give a wounded or bad team more offensive opportunities and they will eventually make you pay. The Thunder’s big men will have their hands full with Gasol and Noah. Then, when Mirotic comes in, one of the big men will have to float out to the perimeter to keep a hand in Mirotic’s face.

USP NBA: PLAYOFFS-OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER AT LOS ANGELES LAKERS S BKN USA CA

3. Welcome back, Craig Sager – After battling cancer, Craig Sager returns back to work tonight. Can’t wait to see what suit the man will be wearing.

House of (Lottery) Cards – The Thunder and the NBA Draft Reform

frank underwood house of cards

On Wednesday, the NBA Board of Governors will be voting on whether to change the format of the NBA Draft Lottery process. In the reform, the 14 non-playoff teams will still vie for lottery positioning in a lottery style system. What does change are the percentages to vie for the top 3 picks. In the current system, the team with the worst record has the highest chance (25%) of getting the number 1 pick, while the lottery team with the best record has the lowest chance (0.5%) of getting the number 1 pick. The basic gist of the current system is, the worser your record, the better your chances of obtaining a top 3 pick. In the proposed new system, the 4 teams with the worst records each have a 12% chance of getting the first pick, with the 5th worst team garnering an 11.5% chance, and the 6th worst team garnering a 10% chance, and on down the line. Even worse, in the new system, teams aren’t as protected as they are in the current system from free falling to a lower spot in the draft. Under the current system, the team with the worst record can not fall lower than the 4th pick. In the new proposed system, the team with the worst record has the possibility of falling all the way down to the 7th pick.

Free agency is to big market teams as the draft is to small market teams. Big market teams are at an advantage because they can not only build during free agency, but also in the draft if they are lucky enough. Unfortunately, small market teams can usually only build through the draft. For as great as Oklahoma City, Salt Lake City, Charlotte, New Orleans, and Milwaukee are as metropolises, they pale in comparison to the global cultural centers that are New York, Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles.

The Thunder experienced this with Pau Gasol this offseason. While not necessarily a top 10 player, Gasol would have instantly made the Thunder the favorites to win the title in 2014-15. But when push came to shove, Gasol, having just completed a 7-year run with the Los Angeles Lakers, decided to go with the Chicago Bulls. One of the factors in his decision was the lack of cultural diversity in OKC. Whatever that is, when you compare OKC to Chicago, you kind of see what he is talking about. I don’t know when was the last time a small market team signed a marquee free agent (and by marquee, I mean a Top-20 player at the time of his free agency). The last one was probably when Peja Stojakovic signed with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets in the 2006 offseason. At the time, Stojakovic was a fringe top 20-30 player in the league, but was beginning to show the signs of being injury-prone. The Hornets, of course, overpaid, and injuries were a major theme of Stojakovic’s term with the Hornets.

With this new draft reform, the NBA is essentially decreasing the life blood of talent to small market teams. The cycle of success to rebuild and back to success occurs a lot more regularly for small market teams than it does for big market teams. Small market teams have to rebuild when times get rough, and hope that they don’t make a big mistake. Big market teams can simply reload when the well runs dry. Is it always successful? No. But if the same mismanagement of funds that occurred with the New York Knicks from 2005-2012 would’ve happened to occur in Milwaukee, you can rest assured that Milwaukee would either be under new ownership or would be playing in a different city. The draft is the harbinger of hope for small market teams. And this new draft reform would lessen the opportunity for small market teams to nab a franchise talent like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, or Anthony Davis.

mcgary presti thunder

The ironic part of all this is that the team at the center of this change is a big market team. The visual tank job that has been the Philadelphia 76ers in the past season and a half is at the root of all the draft reform discussion. In the past 18 months, the 76ers have sent away any veteran asset they had for draft picks and cap space. And in the last two drafts, the Sixers have taken 3 players in the lottery that were either injured (Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid) or not intending to come to the NBA for at least two season (Dario Saric). Strategic tanking has always been a part of the rebuilding process. A rebuilding team wants to shed salary and obtain assets, while at the same time putting a “competitive” product on the floor. But Philadelphia has completely eschewed the competitive part of the equation, and has blatantly put a subpar product on the floor in order to build for the future. It is no different than other tank jobs, with the exception of the blatantness of it all.

With all this on the table, it would almost seem to be a given that at least 8 teams would be against this draft reform. Philadelphia, for sure, would be at the forefront. But stepping up to the podium has been Thunder GM Sam Presti. Surprisingly, Presti, of the championship contending Thunder, has been leading the charge against draft reform. You see, Presti knows what’s at stake. Under the current system, a couple seasons of drought can lead to gold if you draft well and spend your money wisely. But under the proposed system, those couple of seasons of drought can lead to gold or they can lead to iron pyrite. And while draft position is never an exact science, a lot more superstars are drafted in the top 5 picks than anywhere else in the draft. Presti is always looking ahead and knows that there will come a time when Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka will no longer be donning Thunder uniforms. It could be in the next 2-3 seasons, just like it could be in the next 10 seasons. But when that day comes, the Thunder will likely look to the draft to rebuild.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo!Sports, Presti is struggling to come up with the six extra votes to block the 3/4 majority needed to pass the draft reform. Which is absolutely asinine to me. If those small market teams would realize how much more difficult it will be for them to land franchise talent with this change, it would seem like an easy decision for them to make. If anything, this is an opportunity for small market teams to flex a little muscle. Like Frank Underwood of House of Cards says, “There is no solace above or below. Only us – small, solitary, striving, battling one another. I pray to myself, for myself.” I can definitely see Presti working the back channels tonight like Underwood in trying to get those necessary 6 votes. And after he gets the votes, I can see Presti going to his hotel, opening up his balcony window, and cooly smoking one lonely cigarette while staring into the night.

2014-15 NBA Season Preview: Pacific Division

Pacific Division

1. Los Angeles Clippers

paul griffin jordan clippers

Last season: 57-25 (1st in the Pacific Division, 3rd in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Game 6 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder

Key Additions:

  • Chris Douglas-Roberts – Free agent signing
  • Jordan Farmar – Free agent signing
  • Spencer Hawes – Free agent signing
  • Ekpe Udoh – Free agent signing
  • C.J. Wilcox – Draft (No. 28 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Joe Ingles – Australian free agent signing

Key Departures:

  • Jared Dudley – Traded to the Milwaukee Bucks
  • Danny Granger – Signed with the Miami Heat
  • Ryan Hollins – Signed with the Sacramento Kings
  • Willie Green – Claimed off waivers by the Orlando Magic
  • Darren Collison – Signed with the Sacramento Kings

Season preview – While one team gets embroiled in a controversy related to race (Atlanta), another team is getting out of their racial controversy relatively unscathed. With the Donald Sterling fiasco behind them, and with new ownership, the Clippers look to build on the success from last season. The highest scoring team in the league (107.9 ppg) brings back its main core, while also adding the perimeter shooting of Spencer Hawes and Chris Douglas-Roberts to the mix. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are legit MVP contenders and the Clippers should be in the thick of things when it comes to championship contenders.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Clippers make it to the Finals

Projected 2014-15 Record: 59-23

2. Golden State Warriors

curry thompson splash bros warriors

Last season: 51-31 (2nd in the Pacific Division, 6th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Game 7 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers

Key Additions:

  • Leandro Barbosa – Free agent signing
  • Shaun Livingston – Free agent signing

Key Departures:

  • Steve Blake – Signed with the Portland Trailblazers
  • Jordan Crawford – Unsigned
  • Jermaine O’Neal – Unsigned

Season Preview – Golden State is one of those teams that seems to be on the cusp of becoming an elite team, but is missing that extra “oomph” to get them there. Unfortunately, whatever that oomph is was obtained in the offseason. The Warriors basically bring back the same team from last season. While Curry and Thompson may continue to get better, the rest of the team, for the most part, has already plateaued in terms of skill improvement/refinement. I see the Warriors still being good, but also, still not being good enough.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Warriors reach the 2nd round of the playoffs

Projected 2014-15 Record: 50-32

3. Phoenix Suns

dragic bledsoe suns

Last season: 48-34 (3rd in the Pacific Division, 9th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Tyler Ennis – Draft (No. 18 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Isaiah Thomas – Signed and traded from the Sacramento Kings
  • TJ Warren – Draft (No. 14 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Anthony Tolliver – Free agent signing

Key Departures

  • Channing Frye – Signed with the Orlando Magic

Season Preview – The Eric Bledsoe contract situation has the ability to cast a huge shadow on this season for the Suns. After the feel good story that was last season, the Suns appear headed for a fork in the road with this Bledsoe situation. If he signs his 1-year qualifying offer, that could play out any number of ways, with some of those options blowing up in the Suns’ face. The Suns may be forced to trade Bledsoe, in order to keep Goran Dragic, who is an unrestricted free agent in 2015. All in all, I see this Bledsoe situation being too much of a distraction throughout the season for them to continue with what they started last season. Add to that the fact the Suns will no longer be able to sneak up on teams, and you are looking at a team-wide “sophomore slump”. This team will score a ton of points, and will be fun to watch, but will they be able to stop elite team on the other side of the court?

2014-15 will be successful if: The Suns make the playoffs

Projected 2014-15 Record: 45-37

4. Sacramento Kings

demarcus cousins kings

Last season: 28-54 (4th in the Pacific Division, 13th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Omri Casspi – Free agent signing
  • Darren Collison – Free agent signing
  • Ryan Hollins – Free agent signing
  • Nik Stauskas – Draft (No. 8 in the 2014 NBA Draft)

Key Departures:

  • Jason Terry – Traded to the Houston Rockets
  • Aaron Gray – Signed with the Detroit Pistons
  • Isaiah Thomas – Signed and traded to the Phoenix Suns

Season Preview – The Kings seem to finally be on the upswing. They are starting to assemble a team around DeMarcus Cousins, with shooters on the outside (Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas) and rugged enforcers/rebounders on the inside (Reggie Evans and Jason Thompson). Rudy Gay will provide further perimeter scoring and Darren Collison will attempt to quarterback the whole thing. They will continue to fall short due to the weakness of the point guard position, but the maturation of Cousins will start to point the ship in the right direction. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Kings make a play for Rajon Rondo sometime this season.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Kings surpass 35 wins.

Projected 2014-15 Record: 37-45

5. Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant

Last season: 27-55 (5th in the Pacific Division, 14th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Carlos Boozer – Claimed off amnesty waivers from the Chicago Bulls
  • Ed Davis – Free agent signing
  • Jeremy Lin – Obtained in a trade from the Houston Rockets
  • Julius Randle – Draft (No. 7 in the 2014 NBA Draft)

Key Departures:

  • Pau Gasol – Signed with the Chicago Bulls
  • Chris Kaman – Signed with the Portland Trailblazers
  • Jodie Meeks – Signed with the Detroit Pistons
  • Kendall Marshall – Waived; Claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Bucks
  • Kent Bazemore – Signed with the Atlanta Hawks
  • Jordan Farmar – Signed with the Los Angeles Clippers

Season Preview – As someone who respects Kobe Bryant, this is not how I envisioned his final years. The Lakers are going to struggle, and struggle bad. Kobe may have a couple Kobe games left in him, but Father Time remains unbeaten (unless your name is Timothy Theodore Duncan). The Lakers are loading up on short contracts to coincide with the end of Kobe’s contract. Then, the Lakers will look to do what the Lakers usually do: lure top talent with the auspices of Hollywood glitz. But until then, it will be a lot like Lolo Jones’ performance on Dancing With the Star, which is to say cringe-worthy.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Lakers keep their 2015 first round pick (Top 5 protected; if it’s outside of that range, it goes to Phoenix)

Projected 2014-15 Record: 29-53

2014-15 NBA Season Preview: Central Division

Central Divison Preview

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

lebron james varejao cavs

Last season: 33-49 (3rd in the Central Division, 10th in the Eastern Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Brendan Haywood – Obtained in a trade with the Charlotte Hornets
  • LeBron James – Free agent signing
  • James Jones – Free agent signing
  • Kevin Love – Obtained in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Shawn Marion – Free agent signing
  • Mike Miller – Free agent signing
  • John Lucas III – Obtained in a trade with the Utah Jazz

Key Departures:

  • Anthony Bennett – Traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Andrew Wiggins – Traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Spencer Hawes – Signed with the Los Angeles Clippers
  • C.J. Miles – Signed with the Indiana Pacers
  • Tyler Zeller – Traded to the Boston Celtics
  • Alonzo Gee – Traded to the New Orleans Pelicans
  • Sergey Karasev – Traded to the Brooklyn Nets
  • Luol Deng – Signed with the Miami Heat

Season Preview – No other team in the league made as big of an offseason improvement as the Cavaliers. The signing of James combined with the acquisition of Love immediately elevated the Cavs from lottery bound team to championship contender. The additions of Miller and Jones will provide the Cavs with the floor spacing they need to maximize the talents of LeBron, Love, and Kyrie Irving, who just finished an MVP campaign with Team USA in the FIBA World Cup. The one thing that can derail the Cavs, besides injuries, is the lack of experience from key players. The Cavs will be putting a lot of the responsibility on four players who have never sniffed the playoffs in their careers (Irving, Love, Dion Waiters, and Tristan Thompson).

2014-15 will be successful if: The Cavs make it to the Finals. Winning the Finals would definitely be icing on the cake, but this team is looking to build experience for sustained future success in the next 5 seasons.

Projected 2014-15 Record: 58-24

2. Chicago Bulls

rose noah bulls

Last season: 48-34 (2nd in the Central Division, 4th in the Eastern Conference)

Season ended: Game 5 of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs against the Washington Wizards.

Key Additions:

  • Aaron Brooks – Free agent signing
  • Pau Gasol – Free agent signing
  • Doug McDermott – Draft (No. 11 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Nikola Mirotic – Signed Eurostash

Key Departures:

  • Carlos Boozer – Amnestied; then signed by the Los Angeles Lakers
  • Nazr Mohammed – Currently unsigned
  • D.J. Augustin – Signed with the Detroit Pistons

Season Preview – The success of the Bulls rests on the health of Derrick Rose. After basically missing the last two seasons, Rose showed some of the form that made him a league MVP 3 seasons ago during the FIBA World Cup. If Rose comes anywhere close to being that type of player, the Bulls will once again be listed as a championship contending team. The addition of Gasol and Mirotic bolsters a front line that was already one of the better ones in the league. And adding a shooter like McDermott, to bookend with Dunleavy, will make this team even more formidable if Rose returns to form. This team, with a healthy Rose, has a great balance of defense and offense that will lead them far if everything clicks.

2014-15 will be successful if: Derrick Rose remains healthy and the Bulls make it to the Finals.

Projected 2014-15 Record: 57-25

3. Detroit Pistons

pistons drummond monroe jennings caldwell pope

Last season: 29-53 (4th in the Central Divison, 11th in the Eastern Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • D.J. Augustin – Free agent signing
  • Caron Butler – Free agent signing
  • Aaron Gray – Free agent signing
  • Jodie Meeks – Free agent signing

Key Departures:

  • Charlie Villanueva – Signed with the Dallas Mavericks
  • Rodney Stuckey – Signed with the Indiana Pacers
  • Chauncey Billups – Retired

Season Preview – Last season, the Pistons were an inefficient bunch that relied too much on perimeter shooting from players who weren’t weren’t great at shooting. This season, new coach (and GM) Stan Van Gundy, decided to bring in some shooters to supply that need. Meeks and Butler will provide the spacing that Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe will need to operate inside. In addition, Brandon Jennings will be able to be more of a drive and dish point guard, instead of a “let it fly” point guard.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Pistons make the playoffs

Projected 2014-15 Record: 38-44

4. Indiana Pacers

paul george injury pacers

Last season: 56-26 (1st in the Central Divison, 1st in the Eastern Conference)

Season ended: Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat

Key Additions:

  • C.J. Miles – Free agent signing
  • Rodney Stuckey – Free agent signing
  • Damjan Rudez – European free agent signing

Key Departures:

  • Evan Turner – Signed with the Boston Celtics
  • Lance Stephenson – Signed with the Charlotte Hornets

Season Preview – The story of this upcoming season for the Pacers was written on August 1st, when Paul George broke both bones in his lower right leg in a freak accident during the Blue and White scrimmage for USA Basketball. With that, and the departure of Stephenson, any chance of the Pacers contending in the Eastern Conference went out of the window. Stephenson and George were the only players on the team capable of creating their own shots. This season, the Pacers will have to rely on Roy Hibbert, David West, and CJ Miles to provide any semblance of offense. Hence why I think they’ll struggle this year.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Pacers make the playoffs

Projected 2014-15 Record: 31-51

5. Milwaukee Bucks

parker bucks

Last season: 15-67 (5th in the Central Division, 15th in the Eastern Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Jabari Parker – Draft (No. 2 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Jerryd Bayless – Free agent signing
  • Jared Dudley – Obtained in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers
  • Damien Inglis – Draft (No. 31 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Kendall Marshall – Claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Lakers

Key Departures:

  • Ramon Sessions – Unsigned
  • Ekpe Udoh – Signed with the Los Angeles Clippers
  • Carlos Delfino – Traded to the Los Angeles Clippers
  • Miroslav Raduljica – Traded to the Los Angeles Clippers

Season Preview – Much like the Philadelphia 76ers, this season will be all about development for the young core of the Bucks. The Bucks seem to have their wings of the future in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Parker. This season will be about evaluating the point guard and post positions. The Bucks will win more games this season than last because Parker and Antetokounmpo will make winning plays, but the rest of the team will need to follow their lead.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Bucks’ core shows improvement in their development and they net another Top 5 pick.

Projected 2014-15 Record: 21-61

The Truth Hurts: Oklahoma City and Free Agency

OKC-skyline

Oklahoma City has taken a bit of a bashing recently as the NBA’s free agency period has progressed. The Thunder have never really been a big player in free agency, and apparently, that was by design. Going into their 7th season, the Thunder have been all about development from within. Draft well, create a culture that values development, and reward the players that can be a part of a successful core. It has worked extremely well for the Thunder. Almost too well if you factor in the James Harden trade.

But this was the offseason where the Thunder would compete a bit in free agency. Because of their salary cap situation, the Thunder were never going to be big players in free agency. They were over the salary cap, which limited the amount the Thunder can give to perspective free agents. When a team is over the salary cap, the only way they can sign free agents is through the mid-level exception ($5.3 million per year) and the bi-annual exception ($2.077 million per year). With the luxury tax line increasing by over $5 million dollars, the Thunder had enough room under the luxury tax line to sign someone up to the mid-level exception.  After years of acting like 6th grade boys at a school dance, the Thunder were now ready to get off the wall and go onto the dance floor.

But there’s a sort of awkwardness that happens whenever 6th grade boys first build up the courage to go out onto the dance floor. Their palms get sweaty, they start to stutter, and they begin to worry too much about how they look to other people. And sometimes, those fears are realized in the form of rejection and ridicule. With the draft out of the way, it became very apparent that the Thunder were in the market for a 3-point shooter. Luckily for the Thunder, there would be a crop of shooters from which the team could choose from. Players like Mike Miller, Anthony Morrow, and Jodie Meeks were all set to be unrestricted free agents.

pau gasol bulls

But then something funny happens. The pretty girl that you’d always admired from afar, who recently broke up with her boyfriend, is suddenly eyeing you as you stroll onto the dance floor. (Side note: I know the thought of imagining Pau Gasol as a pretty girl is appalling to most, but let’s just stick to the metaphorical script here.) Her now ex-boyfriend is a rich kid who is also one of the most popular kids in the school. As you approach her, she never breaks eye contact with you and actually smiles. You start talking to her, but her friends keep interrupting, saying things like, “Ohh, look at so-and-so. His dad owns a bull farm” or “Oh wow, so-and-so is looking at you. I think his dad works on Wall Street”. Eventually, your insecurities start to creep up, but you keep talking to her anyway. Maybe she’ll see you as something different, something unique. But then, as you start to build some confidence up, she drops the bomb on you. “You know, I like you and think you are cute, but I don’t think you can provide me with what I need.”

And just like that, it’s over. She makes her way to the other side of the room and starts dancing with the kid whose dad owns a bull farm. Eventually you get over it, and start dancing with other girls, but none as pretty as the first one. You begin to fear that you’ll never be able to dance with the real pretty girls.

There you have it. That’s the feeling of most Oklahomans when it comes to NBA free agency. We are learning that, while we aren’t exactly an ugly duckling, the reality is that we aren’t as rich or as big as most other markets. We are a young city that is just now starting to grow, so we don’t have the history or nightlife the bigger markets have. It’s a problem that many other teams face (namely those team not located on either of the coasts), but this was the first time it has affected us so directly. The reality is when you are stacked up against the LA’s, New York’s, and Miami’s of the world, a place like Oklahoma City isn’t really that appealing to young millionaire athletes, especially for time frame of 3-4 years.

butler fisher durant jackson thunder

 

For this reason, the Thunder’s free agency activity is more heightened in February than it is in July. While the Thunder haven’t been players in free agency recently, they have been successful in attracting recently released veterans to join the team for late season playoff runs. Players like Derek Fisher and Caron Butler have been integral parts in recent playoff runs. This is why the Thunder usually have an open roster spot heading into the season. That roster flexibility is not only important heading into the trading deadline, but also afterwards when disgruntled vets are released. Players are more apt to join OKC during this time for two reasons: 1. Older players tend to be married and have kids, which makes OKC a little bit more appealing as a family friendly environment and 2. Even if OKC isn’t on their list as prime destinations, it’s only for a 3-4 month period and could come with a championship attached.

Luckily, the Thunder haven’t had to depend on free agency to build their team. They have literally built their team up from the bottom using the draft and player development. The Thunder didn’t come away empty handed this summer. They signed their shooter (Morrow), and ironically, one of the reasons he chose Oklahoma City is because of its family friendly environment. Maybe, in the end, there’s still hope for that 6th grade boy.

Thunder sign Sebastian Telfair

sebastian telfair thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder signed PG Sebastian Telfair to a non-guaranteed veteran minimum contract. Telfair played last season for the Tianjin Ronggang Gold Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association, where he averaged 26.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 2.0 steals on 36.9% shooting from 3-point range in 35 games. Prior to that, Telfair played for seven teams in nine seasons in the NBA, averaging 7.4 points and 3.5 assists.

Telfair will earn $1.3 million if he stays on the roster the entire season, but will count only $915,000 towards the cap. Telfair will slide into the veteran, 3rd point guard role previously held by Kevin Ollie and Royal Ivey.

While not as sexy a name as Pau Gasol or Mike Miller, this is a good team-building move. Telfair is a veteran that has seen the ups and downs the NBA has to offer and will, hopefully, be a good locker room presence. He’s a good creator and floor general and will be a great asset to have on the bench.

On Second Thought

durant westbrook adams thunder

When the free agency period first began, I thought it was finally time for the Thunder to open up their wallets a little and spend on some quality free agents. Maybe CJ Miles, maybe Vince Carter. Hell, maybe even Pau Gasol. But after seeing some of the contracts being dished out, I’m starting to have second thoughts. Not necessarily about the players I want, but about the amounts needed to bring them in. Just look at the numbers after Day 1 of free agency: Stan Van Gundy and the Detroit Pistons went a bit crazy on Day 1, bringing back visions of Joe Dumars. Jodie Meeks got 3 years and $19 million and Isaiah Thomas got 3 years and $24 million from them. Shaun Livingston got 3 years and $16 million from Golden State. Day 2, so far, has seen CJ Miles receive a 4 year, $18 million contract from Indiana.

Could the Thunder have offered something similar to these players? Yes. But here are three reasons why they aren’t.

Patience is a virtue

You see this all the time around tax time. People get their tax returns and immediately blow them on big screen TV’s, furniture purchases, or down payments for their new cars. While some of the purchases are necessary, most are done because people have some extra disposable income. And when people have disposable income, they feel obligated to spend it.

Well, apparently, NBA teams are no different than people. When the NBA announced there would be an increase in the salary cap and luxury tax line, you could already see the writing on the wall. Teams that had money were going to spend it at the first moment they could. Detroit, with Stan Van Gundy at the helm, is attempting to transform the Pistons into the Orlando Magic team that made it all the way to the NBA Finals with Dwight Howard in the middle. The Pistons have already doled out  $44 million on 3 players. The Pacers, coming off a strange trip to the Eastern Conference Finals that saw them go from being the best team in the league in December to being on the brink of disaster in April, shelled out $18 million for a player that will either be their starting SG or their 6th man off the bench.

sam presti

With every day that passes, more teams will continue to blow the money they have available on players that, in all honesty, probably aren’t worth it. It’s the well run teams that wait patiently until all the noise has run its course and pick up the pieces left behind by the poorly run teams. Miami knows they are basically competing against themselves for the services of the Big 3. It’s up to them to make the smart choices on who to put around James, Wade, and Bosh. San Antonio knows that the injury to Patty Mills probably puts them in the driver’s seat to keep his services.

Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti is more of a waiter than an attacker. While teams are pillaging the free agent market, Presti is content with just sitting back and watching as teams pile on mistake after mistake onto their rosters. He knows there really aren’t that many needs on a team that finished with the 2nd best record in the NBA in a tumultuous, injury-plagued season. The cupboards are loaded with superstars and young, cheap talent. Having that in mind, he knows that he doesn’t need a homerun to completely solidify this team as a championship contender. Sometimes, even when it comes to team building, you get as much out of a single, as you do out of a homerun.

Remember last season when the Nets (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirelenko, and Jason Terry), Clippers (JJ Redick, Jared Dudley, and Darren Collison) and Rockets (Dwight Howard) all won the offseason. Well, neither of those teams made it past the 2nd round of the playoffs. Remember that as we move forward in this offseason.

Young players need opportunities

With Thabo Sefolosha likely not getting extended by the Thunder, one of the needs the Thunder faced going into this offseason was a starting SG. Luckily, the Thunder got a taste of what life without Sefolosha would be like, as he missed 21 games in the regular season and was benched for several games throughout the playoffs. In his place, the Thunder started an array of young players throughout the season. Those players, Andre Roberson, Perry Jones, and Reggie Jackson, along with Jeremy Lamb and Josh Huestis, will all be vying for the starting SG position in training camp.

durant jones lamb thunder

Now the safe move would have been to sign a veteran SG like Miles or Meeks. But with 7 rookie contracts on the roster, the time to determine who is a part of the team’s future is now. If you sign a long term veteran to the SG position, that retards the growth of a couple young players. And on a team that values cap flexibility and sustainability, finding young, inexpensive players that can fill a role is of extreme importance.

Future Extensions

Don’t look now, but the Thunder’s top 5 players are all coming up for an extension within the next 3 seasons. First on the list is Reggie Jackson, who can sign an extension with the Thunder this offseason or go into restricted free agency next offseason. From the sounds of it, the Thunder are really trying to get Jackson extended this offseason in order to avoid having him go through restricted free agency where a team may be able to offer him a deal that would be too expensive for the Thunder to match.

In July 2016, Kevin Durant can be extended and Steven Adams can have his rookie contract extended, similar to what is happening to Jackson now. The year after that, both Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka are up for extensions. The success of the team relies heavily on these players. Keeping salary cap flexibility is tantamount to keeping the core of the roster together.

Add all that up, and the idea of giving a player like Miles or Meeks a 3 to 4 year deal seems almost asinine when you are pressing up against the tax. This team is all about sustainability and internal development. Splurging, even when money is available, goes against the way the Thunder is run. But what do I know? With the rumors that Pau Gasol and Mike Miller are seriously considering the Thunder, this article could be a moot point by next week.

Free Agency and the Oklahoma City Thunder

presti thunder

This is the first free agency period in a while where the Thunder, not only seem like bit players, but also seem willing to participate. For years, the mantra for the Thunder around this time of year has been about internal development. Their recent free agent grabs have been an aging vet (Derek Fisher) and a reclamation project (Hasheem Thabeet). Everyone currently on a guaranteed deal on the Thunder roster has either been drafted by the Thunder or has been traded for by them. Only Thabeet has been obtained via free agency, and his deal is contingent on the Thunder opting into it.

Before we get into the discussion of free agency, we have see what the Thunder have to offer. As discussed before, the NBA salary cap and luxury tax line will all move up this season. While the Thunder are over the salary cap, they do currently fall under the luxury tax line, which will be set at about $77 million next season. If you include the newly drafted first round rookies, the Thunder sit at 12 guaranteed contracts. Those 12 contracts equal to about $69.6 million dollars. The Thunder will be in the market for a shooter, so it only makes sense for them to lock into Grant Jerrett’s deal at $816,000, bringing the total to $70.4 million. I’m keeping Thabeet off the roster at the moment because the selection of McGary kind of negates what he brings to the table. With that said, the Thunder are about $6.58 under the luxury tax line with 2 roster spots available to them.

Any deal the Thunder do will be in the form of an exception. With the Thunder being over the salary cap, they’ll have access to the full mid-level exception, which is about $5.15 million dollar per year for 4 seasons. The Thunder can divide that among multiple players or use it all on one player. The Thunder also have a $6.6 million dollar Traded Player Exception (TPE) obtained from the sign and trade deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves involving Kevin Martin. That exception has an expiration date of July 11, 2014. The Thunder can use the TPE to facilitate a sign and trade for any free agent.

So what are the Thunder’s needs? The Thunder have 3 needs that can be addressed via free agency. The first need, as everyone knows, is perimeter shooting. We saw what a team full of shooters can do in the Finals. The 2nd need for the Thunder is an offensive post presence. And the third need for the Thunder is a veteran 3rd string point guard. Here are 10 options that can meet those needs.

1. CJ Miles – SG/SF / 6’6″ / 231 lbs /27 years old

  • Stats last season (w/Cle) – 9.9 pts /2.0 rebs /1.0 asts /0.3 blks /0.9 stls / 39.3% 3-point FG / 16.03 PER

cj miles

If you don’t succeed, try, try again. The Thunder tried to sign Miles in the summer of 2008, but the Utah Jazz matched their offer sheet. Back then, the Thunder were a team in transition, moving from Seattle to Oklahoma City, and coming off a 20 win season. This time around, the Thunder are a championship contender with a need at shooting guard. Last time, we signed Miles to a 4 yrs/$15 million dollar offer sheet. I’d say look for something similar this time around.

Possible deal from the Thunder: 3 yrs /$11 million

2. Mike Miller – SF /6’8″ / 218 lbs /34 years old

  • Stats last season (w/ Mem) – 7.1 pts /2.5 rebs /1.6 asts /0.1 blks /0.3 stls / 45.9% 3-point FG /12.50 PER

We were in contention last season for the Mike Miller sweepstakes after he was amnestied from the Miami Heat. Ultimately, though, he ended up choosing the Memphis Grizzlies, with whom he played for previously. Even though he has the stigma of having a bad back, he played all 89 games (82 + 7 playoffs) last season at 20 minutes per game. He would definitely supply the perimeter shooting the Thunder desperately need, but would not be a good candidate for the starting 2-guard position.

Possible deal from the Thunder: 2 yrs /$6 million (team option on 2nd year)

 

3.  Pau Gasol – PF/C / 7’0″ /250 lbs /34 years old as of July 6th

  • Stats last season (w/LAL) – 17.4 pts /9.7 rebs /3.4 asts /1.5 blks /0.5 stls /19.34 PER

pau gasol

There has been talk that Gasol would be meeting with Oklahoma City once he is able to. It would be interesting to see what the team is willing to give Gasol, who is probably still worth at least $8 million a season. They can only offer the Mid-Level Exception ($5.15 million) or the Traded Player Exception ($6.6 million). Would Gasol be willing to give the Thunder a discount in order to contend for a title? If so, Serge Ibaka better start recruiting el Señor Gasol.

Possible deal from the Thunder: 3 yrs / $19 million

4. Jameer Nelson – PG /6’0″ /190 lbs /32 years old

  • Stats last season (w/Orl) – 12.1 pts /3.4 rebs /7.0 asts /0.1 blks /0.8 stls /34.8% 3-point FG /13.89 PER

When the New York Knicks hired Derek Fisher to be their head coach, a position opened up within the Thunder organization. It’s the position of veteran point guard with leadership characteristics that can knockdown a 3-point shot from time to time. Nelson would be perfect for that position, but the question becomes does Nelson still see himself as a starting quality point guard, or is he ready to become a bench point guard?

Possible deal from the Thunder: 2 yrs / $7 million (team option on 2nd year)

5. Vince Carter – SG /6’6″ /220 lbs /37 years old

  • Stats last season (w/ Dal) – 11.9 pts /3.5 rebs /2.6 asts /0.4 blks /0.8 stls /39.4% 3-point FG /15.97 PER

Vince Carter

With the Thunder trying to develop their young wing talent in Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones, and Andre Roberson, you would think that bringing in someone like Carter may have an adverse effect on their development, similar to what Caron Butler’s addition did to the psyche of Lamb and Jones last season. But, if the Thunder are able to convince Carter to sign for about $3 million for 2 years to be a scorer/shooter off the bench, I think they would go for it. But it would have to be once other players have turned the Thunder down.

Possible deal from the Thunder: 2 yrs/$7.6 million

6. Anthony Morrow – SG /6’5″ /210 lbs /28 years old

  • Stats last season (w/NO) – 8.4 pts /1.8 rebs /0.8 asts /0.2 blks /0.5 stls /45.1% 3-point FG /13.96 PER

If the Thunder a looking specifically for a shooter off the bench, in the Daequan Cook mode, then Morrow is your man. Morrow is a good shooter, but can’t do much else. He’s a sieve defensively and averages about the same amount of turnovers as assists. But if you want someone to just sit in the corner and receive passes from a driving Russell Westbrook, then Morrow has to definitely be an option.

Possible deal from the Thunder: 2 yrs/$3.5 million

7. Ed Davis – PF /6’10” /225 lbs /25 years old

  • Stats last season (w/Mem) – 5.7 pts /4.1 rebs /0.4 asts /0.7 blks /0.3 stls /15.99 PER

The Grizzlies decided to let Davis become an unrestricted free agent after deciding not to pick up his qualifying offer. With the selection of McGary, signing Davis would be a bit of overkill. But as a young big and as an asset, Davis may be worth talking to. He’s shown some flashes throughout his 5 year career, but has also been inconsistent. The glut of big men on the Thunder roster may prevent this from coming to fruition.

Possible deal from the Thunder: 3 yrs/$12 million (team option on 3rd year)

8. Jodie Meeks – PG/SG /6’4″ /208 lbs /26 years old

  • Stats last season (w/LAL) – 15.7 pts /2.5 rebs /1.8 asts /0.1 blks /1.4 stls /40.1% 3-point FG /14.75 PER

Always beware of players that have had career years on bad teams. The green light that these players receive on bad teams can skew their statistics. Fortunately, the Thunder wouldn’t need Meeks to be alpha male No. 1. We’d need him to be a scorer and shooter off the bench. Meeks’ seaon last year may make him too expensive for the Thunder, though.

Possible deal from the Thunder: 3 yrs /$11 million

9. Ray Allen – SG /6’5″ /205 lbs /39 years old as of July 20th

  • Stats last season (w/Mia) – 9.6 pts /2.8 rebs /2.0 asts /0.1 blks /0.7 blks /37.5% 3-point FG /12.83 PER

ray allen

Allen has seen it and done it. A lot like Fisher, he’s hit big shots in big moments and won multiple championships. I could definitely see the Thunder make a run at Allen as a shooter off the bench. He’s slowed a bit, but that didn’t stop the Thunder from signing Fisher 3 seasons in a row.

Possible deal from the Thunder: 2 yrs /$5.5 million

10. Shawn Marion – SF /6’7″ /228 lbs /36 years old

  • Stats last season (w/Dal) – 10.4 pts /6.5 rebs /1.6 asts /0.5 blks /1.2 stls /35.8% 3-point FG /13.78 PER

Marion’s best work is behind him, but he would still be a valuable commodity off the bench. His versatility allows him to play and defend multiple positions. And even though his shot mechanics make newborn babies cry, he still sinks his 3’s at a pretty good rate. Marion would be a great mid-season addition and not necessarily a great off-season addition based on the what the Thunder need.

Possible deal from the Thunder: 2 yrs /$7 million

The Thunder have a little bit more money under the tax line this offseason, but nothing to necessarily write home about. Something to look out for though: The Thunder may go over the tax line during this free agency period if they have a plan in place to trade Perkins or Collison at the trade deadline. Remember, a team has be under the tax line by June 30th. With the Thunder’s penchant for looking for bargain, look for them to sign Miles (as a starting SG) and sign a veteran shooter (either Allen or Carter). Also, as much as I would love it, the Gasol signing is a pipe dream. Unless Ibaka says something great in Spanish and convinces Gasol to sign with the Thunder for under market value, we will go into the season with Ibaka and Perkins as our starting front court. As I mentioned in the draft postscript, the Thunder have a lot of what they need already on the roster. They could possibly just sign a veteran shooter and go with Jackson, Jones, Roberson, or Lamb as the starting SG.