Offseason In Review: Oklahoma City Thunder

November 19 2013 at 3:18pm CDT By Luke Adams

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings

Trades

  • Acquired the No. 26 pick in 2013 from the Warriors in exchange for the No. 29 pick in 2013 and $1MM in cash.
  • Acquired the No. 40 pick in 2013 from the Trail Blazers in exchange for cash.
  • Acquired the rights to Szymon Szewczyk from the Bucks in exchange for Kevin Martin (signed-and-traded to Timberwolves) and cash (to Timberwolves).

Draft Picks

  • Steven Adams (Round 1, 12th overall). Signed via rookie exception.
  • Andre Roberson (Round 1, 26th overall). Signed via rookie exception. Earning 80% of rookie scale amount in rookie season, and 120% thereafter.
  • Alex Abrines (Round 2, 32nd overall). Playing overseas.
  • Grant Jerrett (Round 2, 40th overall). Playing in D-League.

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

There was a perception that the Thunder took a step back last season after reaching the NBA Finals in 2012. That idea is a little unfair — Oklahoma City still racked up 60 wins, good for the top seed in the West, and would have been favored against Memphis in round two with a healthy Russell Westbrook. Losing James Harden prior to opening night a year ago may have meant taking a step back in terms of overall talent on the roster, but the Thunder are still a loaded team, with two elite players in Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

The belief that the Thunder had fallen behind other Western Conference contenders only gained traction this offseason, based on the club’s relative inactivity. And while it’s true that OKC’s presence on the free agent and trade market was virtually nonexistent, that’s not necessarily the worst thing for a team coming off back-to-back seasons with a .700+ winning percentage. Like the Bulls, the Thunder could look forward to having a star point guard return to their lineup. And unlike many title contenders, OKC tweaked the edges of its roster by continuing to add talent through the draft.

When the Thunder traded Harden last October, the club had two major goals: Maintaining financial flexibility and adding young, controllable talent. Even without a new, expensive contract for Harden, the team’s cap flexibility was limited this summer. There was already so much money committed to salaries for 2013/14 that OKC couldn’t make a serious run at a shooter like Dorell Wright — the free agent wing reportedly received his choice of one- or two-year offers from the Thunder before opting for the Trail Blazers instead. OKC eventually settled for Ryan Gomes on a non-guaranteed contract.

While the Thunder’s proximity to the tax limited its options in free agency, the draft picks and young players acquired in that Harden deal represented the team’s best chance to upgrade the roster. In addition to using its own late-first round pick (traded up from No. 29 to 26) to select Andre Roberson, Oklahoma City used one of the first-rounders obtained from Houston to select big man Steven Adams, who has looked better than expected in the early going.

In addition to Roberson and Adams, 2012 draftees Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III appear poised to take on bigger roles after spending good chunks of last season in the D-League. While the duo’s frequent D-League assignments had some observers eager to write them off as busts, it looked to me like their time with the Tulsa 66ers was always part of OKC’s developmental plan. With Kevin Martin playing significant minutes in 2012/13, it made more sense for Lamb to get more frequent minutes and a more prominent role under the Thunder’s hand-picked coaches in Tulsa rather than sitting on the bench in Oklahoma City.

Of course, even with youngsters like Lamb, Adams, and Reggie Jackson expected to become a major part of the Thunder’s rotation, the team was reluctant to part with its veteran insurance. OKC’s apparent infatuation with Derek Fisher resulted in another guaranteed one-year deal worth the minimum salary. It’s not a major investment, and Fisher certainly isn’t the de facto coach that Juwan Howard has been in Miami in recent years. But presumably the Thunder would prefer to rely on the veteran point guard more for leadership than for crucial minutes in the spring.

Similarly, the Thunder continued to hang on to Kendrick Perkins, despite the team’s cap restrictions and Perkins’ dwindling usefulness. Amnestying Perkins would have allowed OKC to make a bigger offer to a mid-level-type shooter like Wright without worry of tax penalties. However, the cost-conscious Thunder seem reluctant to pay Perkins to play elsewhere, particularly if there’s a chance he could come back to haunt them for another Western team in the postseason. Personally, I’m unconvinced that Perkins still has the ability to make OKC seriously regret losing him, but perhaps ownership wasn’t comfortable with waiving him via amnesty.

The summer of 2013 probably isn’t one Thunder fans will be wistfully recalling years down the road. OKC didn’t land a huge free agent like the Clippers (Chris Paul) and Rockets (Dwight Howard), or pull off a big sign-and-trade like the Warriors (Andre Iguodala) and Timberwolves (Martin). The team didn’t even use the mid-level exception to add useful veterans like the Spurs (Marco Belinelli, Jeff Ayres). But by keeping their core intact and continuing to add complementary young pieces around their stars, the Thunder are ensuring they’re still very much a part of the championship conversation, and should remain a part of it for the next few years.

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