As other teams ran the free agency rat race — overpaying for talent, making deals, signing veterans looking to chase a championship — the Thunder had a very Thunder-like offseason.
All it amounted to was trading Nazr Mohammed, Derek Fisher and Royal Ivey for Perry Jones III, Hasheem Thabeet and Hollis Thompson. An upgrade? Hard to know with the unknowns of two rookies and a bust, but it’s probably at least a push.
What the Thunder do lose though is three very solid veteran voices. Obviously Scott Brooks and Sam Presit feel that between the experiences of the last couples seasons along with a few older guys like Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins that the Thunder have plenty of it. Because no more Fisher, no more Mohammed, no more Ivey. That’s 38 seasons of NBA experience replaced with three, and those are all from Thabeet.
But for Oklahoma City, it’s hard to mess up the offseason right now. This team is in a unique position of basically doing extremely well with roster moves by not doing anything at all. The way the team is built, just a summer to let the young players get better, mature and develop is the best thing that can happen in terms of team improvement.
I saw where some fans were frustrated to see other teams like the Heat go sign players like Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. But if you really wanted the Thunder to make some kind of free agency splash, then you’ve clearly lost sight of the vision of this team. It’s one that’s constructed to have a group of young players grow together. And in order to do that, the future is always an issue and anything that clouds it is unwelcome. Meaning any long-term contract that could potentially impact re-signing players or keeping the core together is a very bad idea.
So signing Grant Hill or Allen or Steve Nash makes zero sense. Would it improve the team for a season? Sure. But could it also mean you have to waive goodbye to James Harden or Serge Ibaka, guaranteed? Indeed. Not an ideal trade. Really, the only way the Thunder could screw up this offseason was by doing something drastic, like trading Harden for the No. 2 pick or something.
The focus is to re-sign the core that was carefully, meticulously, painstakingly assembled. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have already been done. Now it’s on to Harden and Ibaka, and maybe Eric Maynor. Where do things stand on that front? With Harden and Ibaka participating in the Olympics negotiations appear to be a tad frozen on those fronts out of respect to their teams, at least according to a few well informed people. Likely talks will pick up after those players finish fulfilling their national team duties.
As for the players they did sign? Hasheem Thabeet, while a former No. 2 overall pick, isn’t anything to get stoked over. Nor is an undrafted rookie. Perry Jones is intriguing, but for the most part, the Thunder’s personnel moves are pretty uninspiring.
But, what the moves accomplished is to restock the roster on a dime. Consider this: Assuming Nazr Mohammed would’ve signed for a veteran minimum deal, he would’ve cost $1.5 million for next season. Thabeet is signed for $860,000. Derek Fisher is probably looking for something in the $2-3 million range. Hollis Thompson comes in at just over $400,000. Royal Ivey’s vet minimum contract would’ve been for about $1.2 million. Perry Jones’ rookie deal has him at right at $1 million. So that’s some money saved.
And yes, Thabeet is mostly garbage, but like I’ve said, there’s potential there. It’s low risk, potentially high reward. Assuming Cole Aldrich can at least play as well as Mohammed did last season. (Or maybe Thabeet even. It’s not impossible Thabeet beats Aldrich out in training camp. But if that happens, what Aldrich’s career might be on life support.)
Thompson is a 3-point marksman whose uniform will likely be a suit this season, but with the future in mind, he’s a nice piece to put in the program. Daequan Cook is only under contract for another season and if Thompson can grow into at least that, the Thunder have a replacement shooter bought cheap. Remember: future in mind.
And of course Jones is the sweet, delicious icing on this otherwise pretty gross cake. What he had time to show in Orlando was impressive and while I’m not entirely sure he’s going to find real minutes next season, having his talent in the Thunder program could pay major dividends. Any time you put that kind of ability into your system, you have the chance to reap serious rewards. The Thunder grabbed Jones because of feared future medical issues, but for once, the Thunder didn’t appear to be thinking in the long-term. Which of course, was wise.
GRADE: A. Like I said, nothing earth-shattering, nothing that shook anything up, no significant signing. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t successful. The Thunder are penciled in for a good offseason just by virtue of the team already in place. It’s the Thunder curve. Whatever transactions are made, no matter how small, are amplified by the fact the team is already very, very good and still has Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, et al. It’s an easy A. Kind of like getting a 200 or whatever on the SAT just by spelling your name right.
The existing roster has three months to improve and develop (with four players doing so at the Olympics), the subtractions were acceptable additions and don’t forget, the Thunder get back Eric Maynor next season. Which almost like a terrific signing in its own right.
A solid offseason and one that could really only be screwed up. And as you know, the Thunder front office doesn’t do that very often.