Offseason In Review: Oklahoma City Thunder

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

Extensions

  • None

Trades

  • Acquired 2014 pick No. 55 from the Hornets in exchange for cash.
  • Acquired the rights to Sofoklis Schortsanitis from the Hawks in exchange for Thabo Sefolosha (sign-and-trade), the rights to Giorgos Printezis, and cash.
  • Acquired Philadelphia’s 2015 second-round pick (top-55 protected) from the Sixers in exchange for Hasheem Thabeet and $100K cash.

Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks

Camp Invitees

  • Michael Jenkins
  • Richard Solomon
  • Talib Zanna

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

The Thunder may have been disappointed with the conclusion of their 2013/14 campaign, but they were impressive when taking everything in total.  OKC was without star guard Russell Westbrook for nearly half of the season and when the Thunder arrived in the playoffs, they staved off battle-ready teams in the Grizzlies and Clippers before succumbing to the Spurs in six games.  They nearly won 60 games and they were a stone’s throw from the Finals, but after years of being on the cusp, this team isn’t satisfied with moral victories.

Oklahoma City didn’t undergo an offseason overhaul, but that’s not to say that it didn’t make a real run at shaking things up.  The Thunder were one of several teams that went hard after veteran sharpshooter Mike Miller before he landed with LeBron James and the Cavaliers.  They were also hoping to land Pau Gasol, which would have been a monstrous boost to their frontcourt.  Just as the Spurs did, OKC went after the Spaniard with the hope that the allure of winning would help distract from an under-market contract offer.  Ultimately, however, Gasol found a chance to win with better compensation with the Bulls.  Kevin Durant gave it his best shot, but he couldn’t reel in Gasol.  “Obviously [it wasn’t] that close, [but] I did my work. That was my first time recruiting,” Durant said in July.

The Thunder had a few holes to fill over the summer. Backup point guard Derek Fisher left to coach the Knicks, Caron Butler moved on in free agency, and Thabo Sefolosha regressed sharply in 2013/14, ensuring his exit.  The Thunder couldn’t pull off a flashy signing like Gasol or Miller, so they had to dig a little deeper to reload their roster.

Oklahoma City badly needed outside shooting and its signing of the fearless Anthony Morrow made perfect sense.  On a three-year, ~$10MM contract, it’s hard to find fault with the deal given his long-distance acumen and the interest that he had from contenders around the league.  Heading into this season, Morrow had only 129 starts on his resume, but he has shown that he can make an impact with his ability to keep opposing defenses honest.  Unfortunately for the Thunder, he missed the first seven games of the regular season while healing from a sprained left MCL.

With Fisher out of the picture, the Thunder brought Brooklyn’s own Sebastian Telfair aboard to help soak up some of the backup minutes at the one guard.  At the time, the one-year, minimum salary deal seemed like an inexpensive solution to their problem, but things didn’t quite work out.  Just recently, the Thunder bid farewell to Telfair and instead opted to keep fellow point guard Ish Smith.

D-League notable Grant Jerrett was brought back on a four-year, minimum-salary deal with the final two seasons non-guaranteed.  For the time being, it seems like he’s going to remain a D-League staple, but that’s just fine for the Thunder, who aren’t banking on Jerrett to be a key cog this year.  Lance Thomas beat the odds to make OKC’s roster and the Thunder believe that they have found a gem in the former New Jersey high school star.  The Thunder carved out space for guys like Thomas by dumping Sefolosha and Hasheem Thabeet for table scraps, including the rights to Sofoklis “Baby Shaq” Schortsanitis.

The Thunder made moves to try and win a title in the here and now, but they also put a good amount of focus into the draft, where they made two surprising first round selections.  First, with the No. 21 overall pick, the Thunder drafted Michigan big man Mitch McGary. McGary decided to go pro early rather than face a one-year suspension and while there was fear that he wasn’t NBA-ready, the Thunder apparently had no such concerns.  McGary is still waiting to make his NBA debut after a strong performance in the summer league, but the Thunder must be optimistic about the impact he can make this season.

With the No. 29 pick, the Thunder made an even more surprising selection with Stanford forward Josh Huestis.  When Huestis spoke with Hoops Rumors prior to the draft, he projected as a mid-second round pick.  Huestis isn’t a tremendous athlete or a top-notch scorer, but he is a textbook hustle player and a super tough defender.  Huestis’ camp reached agreement on an unusual deal with the Thunder prior to the draft which ticketed him to play for Oklahoma City’s D-League affiliate in his first pro season.

The Thunder didn’t do a whole lot in free agency, but then again, this has never been a team to really build with the open market.  Their quiet offseason may have raised some eyebrows, but the Thunder stand as one of the most fearsome teams in the West, when they’re healthy.  OKC has all of the answers in house. They just need them on the court.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

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