Community Shootaround: Thunder’s Future

Russell Westbrook‘s disdain for the media has been talked about quite a bit in recent weeks. Westbrook certainly won’t like what’s written about him and his team now that the Thunder failed to win a playoff series for the third straight season.

The perennial All-Star point guard was outplayed by counterpart Damian Lillard throughout the series with the Trail Blazers, culminating in Lillard’s series-ending 37-footer on Tuesday. Westbrook shot a playoff career-low 36% during Oklahoma City’s abbreviated postseason appearance, the third consecutive time he’s shot below 40% in the opening round. His 22.8 PPG average was his lowest since his first playoff appearance during the 2009/10 season.

Westbrook is undeniably one of the league’s best and most durable players. He’s averaged a triple-double the last three seasons, a momentous feat for anyone but especially a 6’3” guard. However, he’ll be 31 next season and he’s owed a whopping $171MM over the next four seasons.

Paul George averaged 28.6 PPG in the playoffs despite a nagging shoulder injury, though it did affect his 3-point shot (31.9%). George, like Westbrook, was also turnover-prone in the series.

With the possible exception of sixth man Dennis Schroder, the team’s stars didn’t get a whole lot of help. Steven Adams wasn’t the same tenacious defender he’s been in past postseasons, even though Portland lacked its starting center. Jerami Grant had some good moments in the last three games but overall the wings didn’t produce nearly enough.

So where do the Thunder go from here? George is signed through the 2021/22 season, though he has a player option on the final year. Adams has two big years ($53.3MM) left on his deal. Three other players are making at least $9MM next season, putting a major strain on the team’s cap and ability to make moves.

The club could look to trade one of its stars, though Westbrook’s contract would be very difficult to move. Or they could simply try to add some new pieces, particularly through the mid-level exception, and hope for better results.

That brings us to our question of the day: Should the Thunder try to trade Russell Westbrook or Paul George with the aim of starting a rebuild? Or can they be a better playoff team by adding some different pieces around them?

Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.

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22 thoughts on “Community Shootaround: Thunder’s Future

  1. hiflew

    No to a rebuild. They have made their beds, they have stay the course. (Sorry for the mixed metaphor, but it works.)

    Trading Adams and/or Schroder could work. Maybe buying a draft pick from the Celtics or someone else with more picks than roster spots could get them some help as well.

    But for the most part, they are what they are.

    • fishy 9 dogs

      No one in the league needs a center though. So Adams seems the most likely to stay put.

      • hiflew

        Surely he would be an improvement for someone. He is young enough that he could even work for a rebuilding project like the Cavs or Hawks.

        Not to mention the fact that he could be traded FOR a center in a change of scenery deal as well. Maybe to the Hornets for something like Zeller and pick(s).

        Granted it would probably be easier to trade Schroder, but the possibility for Adams being moved should be explored as well.

        • x%sure

          Switch centers just to switch scenery?– Ferguson to CHA for Monk might work better on that basis. Or Graham.

          Schroder helps them, but they do need a 2G more than a backup PG. Again CHA might be interested if they lose Walker.

          • hiflew

            Change of scenery trades work sometimes. I was thinking of adding Monk to my hypothetical deal as well. I really think he could blossom elsewhere. I don’t think you can get him for just Ferguson. And Zeller could blossom as well. He has a lot of talent, but he needs to be the 4th option at best.

  2. Jason Lancaster

    Stop it. They lost last night because Lillard played out of his mind. Trading anyone would be an overreaction.

    They lost the series because no one can convince Westbrook to play differently. They need Westbrook to mature more as a player. Some of that is coaching, some of it is getting humbled like Westbrook has been humbled.

    Last year everyone was saying Lillard wasn’t good enough. Funny how one good series completely changes the narrative.

    • InvalidUserID

      Three consecutive first round exits. They need to shake things up.

      Anyone who said Lillard wasn’t good enough wasn’t watching enough basketball. He’s legit.

  3. Z-A

    Last night was why I kept hoping the Blazers sucked and would blow it up and trade Dame to Philly. Now I am happy with Toby and Jimmy, but Dame > them on an individual basis.

  4. I would hate to see them break up this core. Before PG13 got hurt, they were right there as the team most likely to challenge the Warriors – and that was with a physically compromised RW. They have a pair of 2 two-way stars in their prime, and a bunch of other elite defenders even missing Roberson. That’s not easy to put in place. Adding the player or two they need is much easier.

    The only rational reason to break it up would be the payroll. Even if the ownership group is willing to continue to pay record luxury tax, it will be difficult to add anybody good at this payroll level. Though not impossible, and (while it’s not my money) I think it’s worth a try. Paid this much, why not give it another year and see what they can do healthy, and some better 3 pt shooters.

  5. Z-A

    Since I brought it up yesterday…

    Z-A • 1 day ago
    Wonder if the Thunder would try and reset. Trade Westbrook, trade PG13. Trade Adams. They’ll find a trade partner it’s just a matter of what they could get. PG13 take your pick of Lakers assets, Boston, Knicks. Someone is going to lose out on AD, or they all might. But where do the Thunder go from here they literally can’t improve the roster. They only have 16-18M really in expiring contracts. What will that get them and is it better than Roberson and 2Pat.

  6. Simple Fan

    Keeping Adams who is a perennial ballplayer. I also liked the chemistry btwn. Schroder and Westbrook in the playoff series and I also think that RussWest should stay put. I can see a George trade but I also wonder if their fanbase would get mad. They like OKC style basketball.

  7. x%sure

    Westbrook’s fast-attacks are amazing. Don’t change that just to be more mature. Fewer 3s tho.

    There’s nothing to do but try again. They win games. PG13 did improve until I guess the shoulder.

    Terrance Ferguson is not an answer. For himI can’t see past an opencourt pick he threw on Adams to allow an opponent’s layup.

  8. Westbrook beginning to defer was a positive thing this season, but it also takes away part of what makes him so compelling – his relentlessness.
    I’m a big fan of his competitive spirit, and don’t doubt that he leaves everything he’s got on the court but I’ve noticed a few things he does consistently that could be ironed out by strong coaching, or more self-awareness:
    He will barrel into the lane then throw a lightning pass straight at Adams’ waist about five times a game resulting in a turnover.
    He will shoot threes out of rhythm, when they’re not a necessity and at the expense of team flow.
    He will dribble, blindly, into traps at the end of close games.
    All of this suggests a low bbIQ, but I think it’s more likely that he is seeing the red mist and is so charged and intense, he just isn’t aware.
    The Thunder are in a tough position, they have a once-in-a-life-time athlete who loves the franchise and gives you blood and sweat, but he just isn’t particularly compatible with many players…
    I think he would thrive in a Giannis type environment, surrounded by shooters.

  9. acarneglia

    How bout a Westbrook trade to Charlotte if Kemba leaves? Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller, Malik Monk, Miles Bridges, and Charlottes 1st for Westbrook and OKC’s next 1st(whenever that may be).

    OKC can still contend, Charlotte gets rid of some money and adds an AS PG.

    • x%sure

      Those two teams do need to talk, but like @padam indicated, Presti would have to consider a Westbrook move triggering PG13. I guess he could ask him, but George could spiral in his grumpiness over time. Maybe he will anyway, or even has started to already… He has cause to complain about the officiating IMO, but that is not a good sign for him. Maybe he goes instead?

  10. I think they should keep the team together. Paul can continue to hide behind Westbrook. Russ can shoot the team into mediocrity, and Adams can buy $25M of lamb chops while padding his stats grabbing Russ’s 15 misses a night.

    Westbrook’s body will slowly break down, and Paul will eventually get pissy and find someone else he can hide behind.

    Donavon and Presti will get fired this year or next. Donavan will go back to college and Presti will get a job with the Magic or Kings or some other second tier team.

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