The offseason is a time for change. Time to tinker with the roster, time to adjust plans, time to consider new ideas. Or it’s a time to flat out change.
The Thunder aren’t the kind of organization subject to much of it, at least in terms of an extreme franchise makeover or anything. Consistency is always key and preferred. But there’s always room to try new things and make some adjustments. Because there’s always opportunity to improve.
What are three changes you want to see next season?
1. Royce Young, Daily Thunder: The option of zoning. I’m not necessarily on the bandwagon that says the Thunder need to become a zone team. But I do think it’s a club that should be in the bag. After so many criticized the Thunder for not deploying one against LeBron in the Finals, both Nazr Mohammed and Nick Collison said during exit interviews that it’s not something you can just pull out. It’s got to be part of the defensive system, something that’s in the whole package. It needs to be practiced, reviewed and understood. Players need to know their jobs, their spots and their roles within it. With a full training this year, unlike last, implementing the ability to use one would be wise.
Patrick James, Daily Thunder: More consistency on offense. I’m a well-established member of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” camp when it comes to the Thunder, particularly on offense. As long as the Thunder keep improving, as they have every minute since relocating, I see no need for major changes of any kind. But if the Thunder don’t continue to show improvement, especially with ball sharing and movement away from the play, I’d be worried for the first time. The Thunder can’t always play like they did the last four games of the Spurs series. But they surely can play that way more often than they have in the past.
Keri Young, @keri_young: Okay Thunder. Season number five is quickly approaching here in the OKC. And while you’ve come a long way (like, a really long way, in more way than one) in in-game operations, you’re still missing a big piece: double-sided flags. I think we can all agree it’s time for the Thunder to invest in these. We’ve all seen it: Rumble and six other Storm Chasers running the T-H-U-N-D-E-R flags out of a tunnel, on top of The Peake, in a grocery store parking lot… you name it, they’ve been there. And while it’s really cool seeing you all running those flags, it’s really uncool seeing those letters backwards. So please, take a hint from a certain school in Norman and make it happen.
2. Young: A little flexibility. Scott Brooks is a stubborn coach. At times, it’s a very good thing because it sends a positive message to his team and for the most part, has been extremely successful. But at the same time, some of that hardheadedness hurt OKC in the Finals. I understand consistency and not want to give the appearance of panic with a major change, but if you set a tone early that being flexible and adjusting to situations is something you do, then it’s just about being adaptable. Like Catwoman.
James: James Harden needs to be more involved in the last minute of close games. If I’m not mistaken, the bomb he laid on the Spurs at the end of Game 5 was his first field goal in the last minute all season. How is that possible? Harden was hardly involved in the fourth quarter before last season, which was a problem that got fixed as he led the league in fourth-quarter free throws. The next step is getting him touches in the last minute. It will help him grow and help other players be freed up to perform as well.
Keri: Wardrobe. I know everyone is pretty excited to finally get some alternate uniforms. When will that happen? It seems nobody knows. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Russell showed us what $15 million can buy during post game interviews of the playoffs but I need more. Listen up. Neon is in and it’s very in with the athletes. Tell me you don’t like those neon Nike’s the Olympians are sporting. Why not (see what I did there?) add some neon to our current uniforms. It seems all the players love wearing tights under their shorts these days. Trust me, I’m a fan. But I’m waiting for someone to bust out some bright orange compression wear. Think about it, Russ.
3. Young: Some experimentation. The Thunder are one of the more versatile teams in the league, largely because of a player like Kevin Durant who can play three, maybe four, positions. OKC became one of the league’s top smallball teams last season, but couldn’t out smallball the Heat in the Finals. And the league is going smaller and smaller, and quicker and quicker. Erik Spoelstra has been a bit of an innovator in the way he’s disregarded positions entirely and basically just played five working parts. Not a bad thing for the Thunder to tinker and toy with too. Get creative with lineups, try a supersmall group with KD at the 5. With the addition of Perry Jones, the Thunder should be more versatile than ever. So use him.
James: Russell Westbrook should get a few minutes each night off the ball when Eric Maynor is in. Westbrook’s devastating effectiveness in that role is seen in glimpses during international play. It sure seems like the Thunder players have matured beyond bitching about roles. I doubt Westbrook would feel slighted by having the ball out of his hands for, say, three or four minutes. Especially because he would be throwing down dunks the whole time.
Keri: When Royce asked me what three changes I would like to see next season his examples were: zone, faster pace, starting lineup, rotation, coaching, etc. Seeing how I have no clue what he means by zone I guess I’ll skip that one. Faster pace? Like, the game goes by faster? Uh, yes, please. Starting lineup: I would like to see a change. I mean, how fun would it be to see Eric Maynor do the tip-off? Rotation: Yes, more of that. Coaching: I’d like to see honorary head coaches for the game. Also, I’d like to be the first.