Tag Archives: Presti

The Thunder and Derek Fisher

Ask any great player who has retired having never won a championship what they would’ve done to get one. Anything short of selling their first born or their soul would probably be the collective answer. But, realistically, would they have traded their best friend on the team to get that final piece? Would they have signed that one questionable knucklehead if it meant getting that title? The answer, each and every time, will probably be yes. The window of opportunity to win a championship is so small, that when that opportunity knocks, it’s best not to hesitate. Can you imagine what Charles Barkley would have given to get a ring? What about Karl Malone? John Stockton? Patrick Ewing? 

Fans tend to think if their team has 2 young superstars, they will contend for the next decade. Ask Portland fans how that worked out for them. The Oklahoma City Thunder have one of the best young cores in the league. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka are all under the age of 24 and are all primed to see action in future All Star games. But what would have happened if the point guard on the team that was recovering from ACL surgery were Russell Westbrook, instead of Eric Maynor? 

That injury to Maynor is what thrust rookie point guard Reggie Jackson into prime action for a title contending team. Before we get into what Jackson has done since he’s been pushed into the rotation as the main back-up point guard, let’s see what he was supposed to be. As the 24th pick in the draft, a player is not expected to be an instant contributor. If a team is picking that late, it usually means that they have a good record and made it into the playoffs. While they may be needing an impact player, they don’t expect to acquire one this late in the draft. Reggie Jackson was supposed to get his feet wet this year. He was expected to learn the speed and nuances of the game, develop a niche, and possibly spend some time in Tulsa with the Thunder’s D-League team. Instead, with the injury to Maynor, he was expected to manage a bench unit that was one of the best in the league. For those of you with any military experience, this is the equivalent of a private being put in charge a platoon. 

Jackson has played the way a rookie in his position would. Good plays sandwiched between mental errors. One of the hardest things to do as a rookie is to play the game while you are thinking. Young players tend to rely exclusively on instincts and athleticism. But if they start to think too much, it begins to muddle their athleticism. This is currently what is happening withJackson. He wanting to play like a traditional point guard, but his game is more geared towards being a combo guard. Teams are starting to trap him more and, in a way, make him think more. This leads to one of two things with Jackson: either a turnover or Jackson trying to neuter himself on the court, by giving the ball up to a teammate as quickly as possible. 

And don’t get me wrong; I’m not dogging the kid. He’s been put in a situation that he shouldn’t have been facing for at least another season. When Jackson does make a play, all the potential that Presti saw in him gets put on full display. The athleticism, the fearlessness, the comic-book like wingspan, the defensive potential. But he never has gotten a chance to ease into learning how to play in the league. Just imagine getting behind the wheel for the first time, and then getting your license the next day. You would eventually learn how to drive, but you may get into a couple of fender benders along the way. 

This is why the possible signing of newly released Derek Fisher is so important. What Fisher lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in experience and veteran savvy. The signing would not be a chemistry shaker, as Fisher has always been regarded as a great locker room guy. It’s a move that just makes sense. He would slide into the back-up point guard role when needed, and would be the experienced hand that would guide the team when necessary. It’s moves like this that win championships. You don’t just plug up holes in sinking ships. You do that in strong ships too. Good back-up point guard play is a necessity on this team. Fisher provides that. Make the move Presti. Go Thunder!

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A Bird in the Hand…

Let me preface this by saying that I love what Kendrick Perkins brought to the team last year. The toughness, leadership, and in your face accountability are things that young teams need from a veteran to reach that next level. It is my belief (and that of many others) that the Thunder don’t get to the Western Conference Finals if Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic are still in the starting lineup. The acquisition of Perkins allowed Ibaka to get off the bench and become a power forward’s version of a free safety, attacking anything that came near the basketball. Plus, signing him to an extension that pays him an average of $8.2 million/season for the next 4 years may prove to be a bargain. Quality starting centers usually aren’t obtained for anything south of $10 million. 

With that said, one has to wonder whether waiting would have allowed the Thunder to obtain someone more “well-rounded” in the post. While Perkins is definitely good defensively and sets great picks, he leaves a lot to be desired offensively. Though, some of his struggles last season may have been attributed to recovering from knee surgery, its not like he was ever Hakeem Olajuwon in the past. With one of the better big man free agent classes to be seen, quite possibly, ever, there has to be some trepidation whether the Thunder reacted too quickly in trying to obtain (and hold on to) a big man. 

Here are 5 candidates that the Thunder could have targeted in this year’s big man free agent class: 

5. Samuel Dalembert

 When the Thunder first acquired Kendrick Perkins, he was recovering from a strain in his non-surgically repaired knee. In the meantime, they played a handful of games with Nazr Mohammed as their starting center. In Perk’s absence, Mohammed performed admirably averaging 6.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in a 7 game span.

 The reason I mention Mohammed is because Dalembert’s game reminds me a lot of Mohammed’s. With the Kings last season, Dalembert averaged a respectable 8 points, 8 boards, and 1.5 blocks per game. He came on strong at the end of the season, and showed he still had some springs in his legs. It always worries you any time someone performs well in the 2nd half of their contract year. In the first 3 months of the season, Dalembert averaged 5.3 points and 5.9 boards. In the final 3 months of the season, he averaged 11.1 points and 10.8 boards. Probably not someone Presti would have targeted or signed.

 Chances of the Thunder targeting Dalembert – 10%

 4. Tyson Chandler

 The Thunder’s first great center. We had him for a couple hours and life was just a little better when he became a member of the Thunder. But, alas, all good things come to an end, and that one came to an end abruptly and quickly. The botched trade aside, this was the one guy I thought could push the Thunder over the edge. Like Perkins, his offensive game leaves a lot to be desired, but this human pogo stick is a menace on the defensive end. Being one of the cogs on a championship team probably has pushed his price tag up by a couple million dollars. With past injury concerns (see: botched OKC trade), increasing mileage on the odometer, and a probable hefty price tag, the possibility of signingChandlerwould have probably been low.

 Chances of the Thunder targetingChandler– 35%

 3. DeAndre Jordon

 Only 23 years old, but already one of the better defensive centers in the league,Jordanproves a great compliment to Blake Griffin. Together they form, possibly, the most athletically gifted front court in the league.Jordanwould have been a great fit to our core. He’s young, big, and he has improved each of his 3 seasons in the league. With the Clippers soon facing the same issues as the Thunder with young great players coming up on contract extensions, now would have probably been a good time to snag Jordan up by offering him a front loaded contract extension that would have really forced Donald Sterling’s hand. If available, I thinkJordanwould’ve been one of the center that Presti would’ve actively pursued.  

 Chances of the Thunder targetingJordan– 45%

 2. Nene

 While the previous 3 centers on this list are primarily defensive centers, these next two centers are good at both sides of the floor. Nene seems to be over the injury-filled beginning of his career which included a torn ACL and a battle with testicular cancer. He has averaged 78 games per season in the past 3 seasons, while averaging 14.3 points, 7.7 boards, and 1.1 blocks per game in that same time span. His quick feet and offensive repertoire make him a big commodity to have late in games. With an asking price somewhere north of $12 million per season, I think Presti would’ve seriously had to take a look at Nene for what he could provide the Thunder on the offensive end, especially in late game situations. 

 Chances of the Thunder targeting Nene – 55%

 1. Marc Gasol

 I would have never imagined that Pau Gasol’s little brother would’ve ever made a name for himself in the NBA. I thought he was just going to be a throw-in in the deal involving his brother being traded to the Lakers. Someone who had the Euro big man skills, but whose girth probably would’ve been a detriment in the league. But something happened between the 2008 Olympics and the 2009-2010 season. Gasol lost a lot of that girth and those skills started to translate very well in the NBA. He is now one of the top 4 two-way centers in the league (the other three being Nene, Dwight Howard and Andrew Bogut) averaging 12.4 points, 7.8 boards, and 1.4 blocks per game in his first 3 season. His combination of youth, mid-range jumper, and inside presence would have been the perfect pick up for Presti and the Thunder. With that said, this is whom I think Presti would’ve seriously pursued if the opportunity had presented itself.

 Chances of the Thunder targeting Gasol – 70%

 In sports, the most commonly used phrase when it comes to front office decision-making is always, “Hindsight is 20/20.” Do I think the acquisition and subsequent signing of Perkins was the right thing to do? At this point, I do think it was. It allowed the young Thunder the opportunity to experience a deep playoff run. That experience will prove to be invaluable in the long run. Perkins is a Presti-type player and his addition didn’t do anything to distract from the core values of the Thunder. Instead, it enchanced the core values of the Thunder and built a stronger foundation of leadership and accountability. In addition, if the rumors are true about Dwight Howard wanting to be a Laker, then we already have our D. Howard stopper when we meet the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.