Ben Golliver for CSNNW: “Watching the Memphis Grizzlies close out the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 on Wednesday night left me with two Portland Trail Blazers-related thoughts. First, even the most carefully laid plans are subject to ruin by even the slightest knee injury. Russell Westbrook’s early exit from the playoffs left the remaining Thunder players struggling to cobble together lineups and responsibilities much like Brandon Roy’s ongoing issues kept juggling things in Portland for multiple seasons. Sam Presti put together arguably the league’s deepest and most balanced roster, one that withstood a blockbuster trade of James Harden just fine all season long, only to have all that hard work go poof when Westbrook went down. Basketball can be cruel, as Portlanders have known for years (decades).”
Berry Tramel: “Absolutely the Thunder got better this season. The Heat was and is a big favorite to repeat. But the Thunder was favored over the Heat last June in the Finals. The Thunder certainly could have made a run at the championship this season. But then Westbrook went down, and opportunity was lost. The Thunder will have many more chances. But the number of years is not infinite. The clock is ticking.”
Eric Freeman of BDL: “Given the circumstances of Westbrook’s injury, it’s fair to wonder how things may have been different if he had not been lost for the playoffs. Yet it’s clear that the Thunder would have faced a considerable challenge in the Grizzlies no matter their luck. Memphis is a uniquely talented squad with a clear sense of their own identity. Although they’re not the highest seed left in the West, they could be the conference’s scariest team at this juncture of the postseason.”
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com: “The Thunder likely will be favored to win the Western Conference again next season with a healthy Westbrook and Durant. But the team does face some important offseason questions. Sixth man Martin is an unrestricted free agent. Center Kendrick Perkins is a potential amnesty candidate. Martin said he was looking forward to the process of being an unrestricted free agent, but it was too soon to focus on it yet, with the season having ended so abruptly.”
Rudy Gobert, a player that Sam Presti has personally scouted, measured impressively at the combine yesterday. Rudy Gobert 7’0.5″ in socks and 7’2″ in shoes with a 7’8.5″ wingspan and 9’7″ standing reach.
Fantastic reader email to Berry Tramel: “Let’s assume (though we can never know, can we?) that the Thunder don’t do anything wild between now and after the draft. They could find themselves mildly in tax territory just by drafting with the picks they will have. Even if they wound up, say, $4 million over the tax line (a very high estimate), that would be a tax of $6 million. Does it make sense to spend $9 million (in Year 1 and over $18 million overall) to save $6 million? I’d have a hard time justifying that. Only they wouldn’t really save that. It stands to reason that OKC would need to sign someone to replace him. The Thunder could always adopt a smaller starting lineup next season by moving Ibaka to the 5 (center) and KD to the 4 (power forward), but that’s going to require either a new coach or a major philosophical programming change in Scott Brooks. So who’s going to be available this summer in terms of a true center? Let’s logically eliminate Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and Nik Pekovic. That leaves folks like Zaza Pachulia. Old friend Byron Mullins. Chris Kaman. Timofey Mozgov (an admittedly intriguing idea a year ago). Tiago Splitter. That’s about it before you start moving from questionable ideas to very questionable ideas. Do any of those ideas move the needle at all? And if you do that, now you’re spending $13-$15 million on the center position next season with little to no improvement over what you would have had.”
Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com on re-signing Kevin Martin: “For the right price, absolutely. Martin can give them what they want offensively in that role, and he largely did this season. He led the team in offensive rating and had a true shooting percentage above 60 percent. This is no longer about James Harden, because he isn’t coming back. If the Thunder pass on Martin, they’ll have to find someone else who can deliver the production.”