The Thunder have some cap room to play with this summer. First things first is Russell Westbrook’s extension and then settling on the futures of Daequan Cook and Nazr Mohammed with the team.
But if Sam Presti wanted to target a free agent or two, he’s going to have a little money to do it — of course depending on the new collective bargaining agreement.
It’s pretty unlikely that the Thunder will really look to sign anyone substantial this summer, instead deferring to development. The team is pretty much set in its rotation already from one to ten. As Presti would say, there’s always room to get better though and he’s going to look at options to do that.
One player that’s intrigued a lot of people? Shane Battier. Yeah, the guy that we all wanted to knee in the forehead during the Western Conference Semifinals.
Battier’s an unrestricted free agent and at 32, he’s not going to require a whole lot of money to sign. Nothing long-term, nothing all that expensive. Battier’s probably in the market for a two-year-last-year-not-guaranteed type of deal in the $8-10 million range.
His skills have started to deteriorate a bit and he’s about as much an offensive threat as Thabo Sefolosha (a better shooter for sure tough). During his 23 game stretch in Memphis, Battier averaged a career-low 5.0 points per game and shot a career-low 33 percent from 3 (down from 8.6 ppg and 39 percent from 3 in Houston earlier in the season).
For that reason, Battier’s not a perfect fit. In all likelihood, James Harden will be in the starting five next season meaning the second unit will lose almost all of its scoring punch. Battier is pretty much a second, older Thabo. A lineup with those two playing together would have more trouble scoring than Flava Flav at a convent. In terms of having a good bench scorer to replace Harden, Battier doesn’t work all that well.
Problem is, locating that perfect player to fill that role is easier said than done. There aren’t too many veteran small forwards that can score, defend and play a limited role available for just a couple million. (Really, Jeff Green in five years would probably be that perfect player. Irony.)
But there are four reasons I’m a little partial to the idea of Battier:
1) He’s a natural backup to Kevin Durant. He’s fine with any number of minutes he gets, plays small forward and fits well into that role. He’s an elite wing defender and it’s never a bad thing to add another quality defensive player.
2) My favorite reason: He’s on KD’s team now. Instead of having him somewhere else guarding Durant, now he’s joined the good guys. That’s one less KD Stopper that exists out there.
3) In that same regard, imagine the help Battier can give Durant by just practicing against him every day. KD would get all that face-guarding, off-the-ball physicality daily instead of just a couple times a year. KD talks about getting stronger away from the ball and getting better freeing himself from defenders. Well, here’s a practice dummy for him to use.
Maybe one of the best ways to develop that is to just bring Battier in as his personal trainer and have those two battle in practice. Think of the four or five million you’d spend on Battier as an investment in Durant. Kind of like in NBA 2K11 when you buy a better pair of shoes with the points you’ve earned to take your quickness or steal ability up, Battier would maybe take KD from a 97 to a 99.
4) Talk about some No-Stats All-Starring. I’m not sure a lineup featuring Nick Collison and Shane Battier could mathematically ever lose a game. I think it would be impossible.
Battier is the type of player that Presti loves. Hard working, intelligent, crafty and a winner. But he’s not really the type of transaction Presti is prone to making. Normally Presti avoids free agency, instead just using it to fill out the roster with a third string point guard here or veteran big man to have on the end of the bench. Spending a couple million on a player isn’t something we’ve seen much of. Instead, Presti prefers to use the draft to either take a future Battier or find an international player to develop.
And that’ll likely be the route this time around as well. Still, there’s a little money to play with and if you’re in a shopping mood, Battier is a decent option. At least one to talk about, I’d say.