Offseason Outlook: Oklahoma City Thunder

June 26 at 12:30am CDT By Zach Links

Guaranteed Contracts

Options

  • Grant Jerrett ($816,482, Team)*

Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents / Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • 1st Round (21st overall)
  • 1st Round (29th overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $67,592,441
  • Options: $816,482
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $1,250,000
  • Cap Holds: $11,609,943
  • Total: $81,268,866

Over the last few days, teams have been daydreaming of scenarios in which they could clear enough cap space to sign LeBron James and/or Carmelo Anthony.  The Thunder are not one of those teams.  With a strong, young core, Oklahoma City knows that it can stand pat and remain as one of the top teams in the Western Conference.  The small moves the club makes beyond that, however, will dictate its chances to overtake the Spurs, Clippers, Rockets, and the rest of that truly vicious half of the NBA.

The team’s biggest priority will be to replace Thabo Sefolosha, who has about as good of a chance as returning to OKC as Clay Bennett has of winning the key to the city in Seattle.  Sefolosha, as we all know, is an extremely tough perimeter defender, but offers little in the way of scoring.  The Thunder can bump Jeremy Lamb into the starting two-guard role, but they’ll still need depth behind him if they go that route.

OKC will also be on the lookout for some frontcourt depth behind key big man Serge Ibaka and last year’s first-round pick Steven Adams.  Kendrick Perkins saw his role shrink a bit last season and his 3.4 PPG average was his lowest in years.  Nick Collison, who, like Perkins, is set to become a free agent after this coming season, also hasn’t satisfied all of the team’s needs.  Perkins might be changing teams before next summer, by the way, as OKC could very well amnesty him and his considerable salary.

The Thunder will also need to add depth at point guard, since one of the guys who played behind Russell Westbrook is now coaching the Knicks.  Seeing the soon-to-be 40-year-old Derek Fisher go might feel like a big loss to Kevin Durant and the Thunder, who looked to the veteran for leadership, but they can do a whole lot better from a basketball standpoint.  The stats weren’t kind to Fisher as he shot just 39% from the floor and posted a PER of just 10.1, though both figures actually represent improvement over the previous few years.  They won’t find anyone with the athleticism to match Westbrook, but they can certainly get someone quicker than Fisher with better scoring ability.

General Manager Sam Presti doesn’t have a ton of cap space to fill these needs, but he is armed with two first-round draft picks in one of the deepest classes in recent memory.  With picks at Nos. 21 and 29, the Thunder can’t take care of every hole, but they can plug two of the three.

At the time of this writing, DraftExpress has the Thunder drafting UConn point guard Shabazz Napier and Clemson small forward K.J. McDaniels.  Napier isn’t a world-class distributor, but he’s made strides in this area and would certainly bring the scoring that Fisher did not.  Taking McDaniels at No. 29 would give the Thunder one of the most athletic wings in the draft and, with the right tutelage, a defender to help fill the void left by Sefolosha’s departure.  ESPN’s Chad Ford, meanwhile, has OKC pegged to take UCLA small forward Kyle Anderson and his teammate, shooting guard Jordan Adams.  Anderson has the versatility to cover multiple positions and could help the Thunder in a number of areas.  Adams doesn’t have the athletic ability of the aforementioned players but he certainly knows how to put up points.  The Thunder were reportedly ready to use the No. 21 pick on 18-year-old Latvian power forward Kristaps Porzingis, but the big man surprised everyone by withdrawing from the draft just prior to the deadline earlier this month.  Some believe that the 7-footer could wind up as a top five pick in the 2015 draft.

Outside of the draft, the Thunder still have a trade exception left over from the Kevin Martin swap with the Timberwolves.  OKC has the ability to tack on $6.6MM in salary and the Thunder would be wise to use it if they can get the clearance from up top.   Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman recently suggested that the Thunder could use the exception to trade for Knicks guard Iman Shumpert.  Shumpert was lost in coach Mike Woodson‘s system last year and there’s no guarantee that he’ll be any better utilized under Fisher and Phil Jackson.  The Knicks, we imagine, would also appreciate the salary relief as they try to extend their resources and appease free agent Carmelo Anthony.  The Thunder could promote Lamb to the starting two-guard role, bring Shumpert on in support, and — assuming they don’t lose one of them in this hypothetical trade — use their two first-rounders to satisfy their needs at point guard and in the frontcourt.

Internally, the Thunder might also like to take care of guard Reggie Jackson with a contract extension.  Presti has appeared to downplay this notion, but it’s hard to see the Thunder not being open to working out a new deal between now and Halloween.  “Generally, these things don’t happen in July, and the trend now is they don’t happen by the October 31st deadline,” Presti said earlier this month.  The Thunder traded James Harden rather than give him the contract he wanted, but Presti doesn’t foresee the same thing happening with Jackson.

While OKC’s trade exception could become a factor between now and its expiration date on July 11th, much of the heavy lifting this summer will take place in the draft.  Stay tuned, Thunder fans.

Cap footnotes

* — Jerrett’s cap hold would be equal to the amount of his option if the Thunder declines the option, unless the team elects to tender a qualifying offer. In that case, his cap hold would be $1,016,482, equal to the amount of the qualifying offer.
** — Thabeet’s salary becomes fully guaranteed if he’s not waived on or before September 1st.
*** — See our glossary entry on cap holds for an explanation of why Fisher’s cap hold technically remains on the books for the Thunder even though he’s taken the head coaching job for the Knicks, thus retiring as a player.

ShamSports and Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ were used in the creation of this post.

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