When the NBA officially re-opens for business on Dec. 9, the Thunder will have work to do. Russell Westbrook needs and extension, a decision needs to be made on Daequan Cook and the front office can start surveying the free agent crop. So what should, or will, the Thunder do come Dec. 9?
Fact or Fiction: The Thunder should be players in free agency.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: Fiction. I’m on record as saying that I’m a fan of the idea of going after Shane Battier, but with so much to take care of in the future with Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka (and even Maynor), committing to players that you don’t necessarily need isn’t wise. And we all know that Sam Presti pretty much sticks to what is wise.
Patrick James, Daily Thunder: Fiction. For who? There’s no one out there who makes sense from a basketball and financial standpoint who will be better than the young players Oklahoma City still has to lock up. A veteran offensive presence like Jamal Crawford or defensive guy like Shane Battier would be nice, but those guys will likely command the kind of money, and maybe years, that could hinder re-signing James Harden or Serge Ibaka.
Joe Newell, Daily Thunder: Fiction. The roster is essentially set. There wouldn’t be much benefit from what is available in Free Agency. Granted there are some very nice players available (Nene, Chandler, Afflalo etc.) outside of one or two, most aren’t upgrades for us. Guys like Shane Battier or Mike Dunleavy would have a small role on the team unless there was an injury. So, with a handful of guys ready for extensions within the next year, I say keep your powder dry.
Fact or Fiction: The Thunder should re-sign Daequan Cook.
Royce Young: Fact. But it’s not just cut-and-dry. There are always shooters out in the market. There are always guys that you can play for 8-10 minutes a game and stuff in a corner 3 spot and tell to shoot when open. But Cook was a good fit last season from a culture and personality standpoint. But still, OKC is going to have to pay him something like $3 million to keep him and that eats away pretty much all the cap room they’ve got. So if you want to make a splash with someone else, Cook might have to go.
Patrick James: Fact. As long as no one signs him to a ridiculous offer sheet. Cook provided much-needed bench offense as a shooter, and it’s unlikely the Thunder could find the same impact at a reasonable price from someone who is also clearly a great fit in the locker room. Cook has found a niche on this roster, so the Thunder should keep him if the price is right.
Joe Newell: Fact. I’m a little on the fence on this one. Cook’s QO is for $3.1 Million. That’s a lot of money. Cook did a great job last year as a decent defender but especially a three ball specialist off the bench. Every team can use that. But what bothers me is that it was far and away his best pro season shooting the 3. So much so it may be an outlier. Will we as happy with him next year if he’s shooting .340 or so from deep?
Fact or Fiction: Russell Westbrook should get a max extension.
Royce Young: Fiction. The way the question is, “should” is a key word. Will he? Yeah, probably, but that’s just how it goes. Joe Johnson shouldn’t have gotten a max deal. Same for Rudy Gay. But they do because that’s what the market determines. Westbrook probably feels he’s max money material and that’s what he’s going to want. But to me, while Westbrook is a fantastic player and certainly worthy of big dollars, max money is for the LeBron’s, Durant’s, Duncan’s and Kobe’s of the world. That’s what you give to the franchise cornerstone. And whether Westbrook likes it or not, Durant’s the cornerstone.
Patrick James: Fact. A max deal might be a little steep for Westbrook, but so what? Has anyone noticed this trend of guys flocking to big city teams? When you’re in a market like OKC and you have a chance to lock up a guy who looks like a perennial All-Star, you do it. It might make it more difficult to retain both Harden and Ibaka, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. That’s where “In Presti we Trust” comes in. You sign Westbrook while you can and ask questions later.
Joe Newell: Fiction. Russ is a stud, but a step below a max player. He’s led the league twice in three seasons in turnovers and he was fifth in the league in usage (Durant was eighth). That being said, he is arguably as good as any PG in the league in his own way. Presti should go to Westbrook with his calculator in hand and explain that taking a little off a max deal will allow the team to re-sign Ibaka, Harden, Maynor etc and be in contention for many years to come.