At PBT, the good fellas there are running through a series looking at what each team needs to focus on when the lockout finally ends. Today’s Oklahoma City’s turn and they asked for my thoughts on it. Here’s what I sent in.
The answer most everyone is probably thinking for the Thunder is, “Get Westbrook and Durant to play well together.” But here’s the thing: They already do. They didn’t win 55 games and come within two fourth quarters of the NBA Finals by playing bad together. Do they need to improve? Definitely. Good thing they’re both just 22 years old.
First order of business for Sam Presti and the Thunder is to take care of Westbrook though. No, not by trading him. Or by lecturing him on how to pass the ball to Durant. Or by changing his position. The Thunder have to get him paid. Westbrook is eligible for an extension and despite all the noise and chatter, he’s still absolutely a major part of the team’s future. Locking up Westbrook is priority No. 1.
Other than that, there aren’t a ton of major roster moves for the Thunder to make. They extended a qualifying offer to Daequan Cook so potentially matching an offer could be on the docket. They already re-signed backup center Nazr Mohammed, so that’s handled. Kendrick Perkins got an extension during the season, so no worries there. Really, the Thunder’s roster is virtually set. Especially in terms of the rotation. Sure, I guess there’s always room to improve, but the idea for that in the Thunder is organic progression. Not by making a free agency splash. Because even if they were to target someone, where would he play? The rotation one through nine is set.
And 2), Get Perk healthy. Perkins himself said he was only about 60 percent during the playoffs. He was overweight, out of shape and his knees were a little heavy on him. He’s committed to a pretty tough offseason conditioning plan — one that may or may not include getting in bar fights — and he’s said he wants to get back down to a playing weight of around 250. This is the Perk that Oklahoma City is hoping for. Not the one that lumbered around in the postseason like he was Greg Oden’s overweight brother.
Post-lockout, the Thunder will have it pretty easy compared to other teams. There won’t be a made scramble or anything to really settle the roster. Just take care of Westbrook. And then just go back to letting him and Durant figure each other out on their own.
Bottom line is that the Thunder don’t need to do much when the lockout ends — they will come in as more experienced title contenders next season. If the lockout drags on and the 2012 season looks like the 1999 season — 50 games crammed into too few days and then the playoffs — young and talented teams where their leg will bounce back quickly have a big advantage. And that would be the Thunder.
Their time is coming soon, fans just need to be a little more patient.
I don’t have a big problem being patient for the Thunder, but I definitely don’t have enough patience to wait an extra year to find out. Get this lockout over with so the Thunder can get on with things.