2017 Offseason In Review: Oklahoma City Thunder

Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2017 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2017/18 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Signings:Patrick Patterson vertical

Camp invitees:

Trades:

Draft picks:

Draft-and-stash signings:

  • Dakari Johnson (2015; No. 48) — Signed to two-year, minimum salary contract.
  • Daniel Hamilton (2016; No. 56) — Signed to two-way contract.

Extensions:

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

  • Hired Rob Hennigan as vice president of insight and foresight.
  • Lost assistant general manager Michael Winger to the Clippers.

Salary cap situation:

  • Operating over the cap and over the tax. Carrying approximately $131MM in guaranteed team salary. Only minimum salary exception available.

Check out the Oklahoma City Thunder’s full roster and depth chart at RosterResource.com.


Story of the summer:

The Thunder approached the 2017 offseason with one goal and one goal only: To lock Russell Westbrook into as long a contract extension as they were eligible to offer. It wasn’t a question of money – the organization was more than willing to offer top dollar – but rather a question of whether Oklahoma City would be the right place for Westbrook to play out the prime of his NBA career.

To convince the reigning MVP to stay on board, the Thunder went out and made it abundantly clear that they were willing to surround him with a formidable supporting cast. General manager Sam Presti pulled the trigger on not just one blockbuster trade this summer, but two. Shortly thereafter, Westbrook put pen to paper on the largest contract extension in NBA history.

The Thunder had no qualms brazenly committing to superstars, and managed to get a pair of them discounted heavily after months of trade rumors. Even if the organization’s ambitious reload doesn’t result in a title before Paul George and Carmelo Anthony hit the open market as free agents, it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t a successful summer in OKC.

Key offseason losses:

Victor Oladipo didn’t exactly flourish in the same backcourt as ball-dependent Westbrook last season, but there’s no denying that the 25-year-old combo guard was intriguing in the long term. His 15.9 points per game should be easily replaced in 2017/18.

While Enes Kanter gets panned for his defensive inefficiencies, he remains a potent offensive weapon that could very well fill the stat sheet as a freshly minted member of the Knicks. Alas, considering that the 25-year-old played just 9.0 minutes per game for the Thunder in the playoffs, it’s safe to assume that he wasn’t part of the team’s long-term plans.

The Thunder have been struggling to find a suitable backup point guard to slot in behind Westbrook and weren’t impressed with the performances of Norris Cole and Semaj Christon in that role last season. Both are currently out of the league to start the 2017/18 season.

Finally, Domantas Sabonis, another valued long-term asset, was Indiana-bound alongside Oladipo. Sabonis showed flashes of the skills that made him a lottery pick in 2016, but his inclusion in the George trade was fair and logical.

Key offseason additions:Paul George vertical

The Thunder landed two of the biggest available players on the trade market this summer, starting with George in a late June blockbuster. While there’s always the possibility that the All-Star forward will head elsewhere as a free agent next July, he’ll break camp as the team’s most prolific wing since Kevin Durant.

The version of Carmelo Anthony that the Thunder pried away from New York may have lost a step, but the veteran has the opportunity to play a major role on a contender after a disconcerting number of uninspired seasons with the Knicks. Anthony is expected to play the four full-time this season.

Overshadowed by the two aforementioned acquisitions is the solid signing of ex-Raptors big man Patrick Patterson. Patterson will provide a nice offensive spark off the bench and has the ability to make an impact on games from beyond the arc.

Oklahoma City’s latest attempt to find a suitable backup for Westbrook has brought them to veteran Raymond Felton. Felton has toiled in relative obscurity since 2013, but could be a reliable, stabilizing force in the Thunder’s backcourt. He’s also already familiar with one member of the team’s new Big Three, having played with Anthony in New York.

Outlook for 2017/18:

The Thunder went all-out in an attempt to prove to Westbrook that they’re serious about winning ball games. Oklahoma City may have given away a few intriguing long-term assets, but with a player of Westbrook’s magnitude already on board, it would have been silly to be anything but ambitious while looking to retain him. Even if those blockbuster moves don’t lead to a ring, locking Westbrook into his contract extension is a major win for the franchise.

It remains to be seen just how well the experiment will work, as Westbrook, Anthony and George all tend to need the ball in their hands in order to perform. Perhaps we’ll see the most significant transformation out of Anthony, the 33-year-old All-Star in line to prove that he can still play a major role on a winner.

If things go south, George turns out to be merely a rental, and the optimism surrounding the club ultimately fades, the small market club could find itself saddled with Anthony’s substantial contract in 2018/19. However, that’s a risk that Presti and the front office are willing to take. Given that the team now presents one of the league’s greatest threats to the reigning champion Warriors less than half a year after getting bounced in the first-round of the playoffs, I’d agree that it looks like a risk worth taking.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Luke Adams contributed to this post.

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