Just like that, the lockout is over (pretty much) and free agency and training camps start Dec. 9.
Which means it’s time to get that speculating hat back on and get to talking about basketball again. How so very sweet it is.
When free agency opens, the Thunder will pretty much have two things on their plate:
1) Ink Russell Westbrook to a max extension
2) Decide whether or not to re-sign or match any offer on Daequan Cook
After that, it should be a pretty smooth sailing two-week offseason for Sam Presti. Still, you have to wonder, with a little bit of cap space in their pocket, could Oklahoma City potentially be a free agent player?
No, probably not. The rotation is all but set, the roster is pretty much full, there isn’t a lot of cap space left over, especially with the moves that need to be done (though keep in mind, Westbrook’s extension won’t count until next year) and Presti definitely doesn’t have a history of signing free agents. Especially ones that aren’t just token veterans to fill out a roster.
Prior to the draft, it was pretty much agreed upon that if the Thunder needed anything, it would probably be a capable wing to spell Kevin Durant when needed. Preferably a player with some defensive chops and the ability to drill an open shot.
Why? Mainly because with the high probability of James Harden moving into the starting five, the bench loses a little bit of firepower. Reggie Jackson certainly might alleviate some of that as a combo scoring guard, and Thabo can slide over to a natural backup of Durant, which might be better suited for him (10-15 minutes a game for Thabo makes a lot more sense than 25-30).
That’s the probable scenario and truly, the Thunder standard operating procedure. Don’t overextend on a veteran that may or may not help. Instead, bring in a talented but raw player, put him in the program and watch him grow into the piece you need. That’s the idea with Jackson and with his ability, I’m confident he could become a bit of a Russell Lite off the bench and help replace Harden’s scoring punch.
Still, it’s likely there will be a roster spot available (Oklahoma City’s at 14 right now, which includes Cook and Reggie Jackson) and the Thunder will have some cap space — roughly $5 million. If Cook stays with the team there might not be a lot of cash to spend, but there will be some at least, if Presti is willing.
I really don’t think the Thunder are all that interested in adding a wing, especially since they passed over Jordan Hamilton in the draft, who seemed like a fit there. Really, Sam Presti is probably fine with kind using Thabo and Cook — again, assuming he’s back — as Durant’s makeshift backup.
So a wing could be something the Thunder need. Who’s out there?
There’s been a solid amount of chatter and buzz about Battier and while it’s unlikely, it does seem like a quality fit. I guess I’ve already sort of covered why, but to summarize once again: Battier is a terrific teammate, a quality defender, an OK shooter and by having him on the team, he can’t defend Kevin Durant anywhere except for practice, which is probably a good thing in the long run.
Never really thought of him as a fit, but really, it’s not a horrible thought. His last contract had him making $10.5 million in his last season (can you see why owners were losing money now?), but there’s no way he’s going to make near that much this time around. He’s a really good shooter, moves well off the ball, scores all over the floor and while not a great defender, he certainly tries.
I think he’s going to be hunting for more than the Thunder want to pay, but he’s going to take a paycut and to play on a contender like OKC, he might be willing. His issue could be minutes, but he’s versatile and can play both the 2 and the 3. I see him as a potential fit, honestly.
In terms of the so-called Thunder “culture” he couldn’t be more of a non-fit. But he plays defense and shoots the 3. He’s basically just a little more qualified Thabo in some ways. Not really a great fit, but he could be really affordable.
He’s sort of the token veteran wing player. He’s always decent, never bad and handles his job well. He’s old at 36, but still performed relatively well in Cleveland last year. He can hit an open 3 and while his defense isn’t as good as it used to be, he’s still a hard worker. I don’t think he provides anything all that different or better than Thabo though.
Yep, seriously. In all reality, McGrady could be a really interesting fit behind KD. He showed in Detroit that not only was he willing to accept a bench role, but he also showcased the ability to run point, play off the ball and even defend (according to Synergy, his one-on-one defensive numbers were surprisingly good).
He’s never been out of the first round of the playoffs and at 32, his window of opportunity is closing. A young team like the Thunder could energize him and give him a decent shot at a little glory. Plus, he’d be cheap. He made just $1.3 million last season in Detroit and would only require a similar number again.
The more I think about it, McGrady seems like a really interesting idea. You run a slight risk of him remember how good he used to be and trying to overstep his role, because he’d be playing an extremely minor one with the Thunder, but in having a versatile wing player that can score and shoot, McGrady works well. And the price will certainly be right.
What else? If you run down the checklist for OKC, it’s hard to come up with anything. Superstar? Check. Second superstar? Check. Bearded lefty shooting guard? Check. Defensive stopper (sort of)? Check. Shooter? Check. Big man depth (Perk, Nazr Mohammed, Cole Aldrich)? Check. Backup point guard? Check. Project to sit at the end of the bench and fluctuate between Tulsa and Oklahoma City all season long? Check.
So outside of a wing, which really, the Thunder don’t desperately need, there’s not much to do.
Sam Presti doesn’t make moves though for the sake of it. He doesn’t spend cap space just because he can. And with Harden likely moving into the starting five, Thabo becomes KD’s natural backup. Not exactly the offensive punch off the bench maybe everyone has in mind, but at least the 10-man rotation is set and understood.