The world knows that as long as Westbrook is in a Thunder jersey he is going to be an All-NBA performer. Yet, the current makeup of the Thunder is simply not good enough to get any further than the first round of the playoffs. Until Oladipo and Adams take big steps to match their coming pay raise, this team isn’t going anywhere. New players and a new focus may be required for this year to have any meaning at all.
When Sam Presti signed both Oladipo and Adams to new contracts this offseason almost everyone thought it was a good team move. When the new CBA was agreed upon, the amount and lengths of the contracts continued to be seen in a positive light.
Oladipo will make over 3 times his current salary and Adams will make over 7 times his current salary next year
Next year, both players see a salary increase that will make any fiscal conservative wake up with nightmares. Oladipo will make over 3 times his current salary and Adams will make over 7 times his current salary next year. It isn’t realistic to expect Oladipo or Adams to produce 3 times or 7 times what they have done in the past. However, Presti better hope each player gets out of the Westbrook shadow and grows into their contract very quickly.
Some organizations make the future happen via draft, trades and free agency. Other teams, like the OKC Thunder, wait for the future and assume it will work itself out.
Wait and See
Thunder fans have been watching their phones, various NBA sites and Twitter waiting for a blockbuster trade ever since the Durant departure. Instead, Thunder management has given fans a D-League bench, an unstable Turkey with a broken forearm and a gaping hole at small forward.
The thought pattern of the Thunder front office has been one purely consisting of hope. Locking in Oladipo and Adams was based on the hope they would grow into superstars within the next two years.
Instead of making a splash move to get another established star to join Westbrook, the Thunder plan to grow from within. While that sounds reasonable, anyone who has watched OKC this year can’t find a reason to keep watching, minus the triple double show.
Russell Westbrook will make $26, $28 and $30 million dollars over the next three seasons. New CBA or not, Russ deserves his contract and then some. At the same time, there may be a reason Thunder management hasn’t sought out major additions to this team.
If the plan works to perfection, next year could be both surprising and superb in Oklahoma City.
Maybe no other established star wants to play alongside Westbrook? He can be a reckless turnover machine who shoots horrible shots and dominates the basketball every possession.
So instead of messing with the chemistry of the team Presti has put his hope in the rapid growth of Oladipo and Adams this Summer.
Furthermore, players like Alex Abrines and Jerami Grant are due for some major growth this offseason as well. If the plan works to perfection, next year could be both surprising and superb in Oklahoma City.
The OKC Thunder could have had a plethora of options for in season trades and summer free agency. However, it appears they are all in on the Westbrook-Oladipo-Adams train for the foreseeable future.
Something Compares to You
Victor Oladipo has been an exciting player ever since Hoosier and Magic time kick-started his career. He can shoot, drive and pass with great athleticism and yet also with great inconsistency. So far this year, Oladipo is averaging 16 points per game while inexplicably shooting an awful 71% from the free throw line.
His 3pt and field goal averages are comparable to Bradley Beal and Avery Bradley. Yet, only two of the top-40 shooting guards in the league shoot worse from the stripe than Oladipo (Tim Hardaway Jr and Tony Allen). The scary juxtaposition is that next year, Oladipo will be close to making the same money as Bradley Beal. Beal averages 22 points per game and shoots 84% from the free throw line. The Thunder are assuming Oladipo will improve. If he doesn’t improve, Thunder fans can assume another disappointing year.
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Steven Adams appears to be on an upward trajectory as his offensive efficiency seems to improve daily. Adams has attributes that statistics cannot quantify and heart that coaches cannot coach. Yet, on no planet should a seven-foot tall center grab less rebounds than his 6’3 Point Guard, even if it is Westbrook.
Marcin Gortat is almost a decade older than Adams, gets the same points per game (12), grabs four more rebounds per game and will make much less money than Adams next year. Another center who received a new contract this summer is Rudy Gobert.
Gobert will make less money than Adams every year of his contract while being much more productive. With an average of 13 points per game, almost 13 rebounds per game and 2.5 blocks per game Gobert beats Adams in every category. Unless Adams can come close to the production of Gobert by next year, the Thunder can assume one more lost year.
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
The Thunder front office made the offseason moves they thought were best for the future of this team. With Westbrook locked in for a few years and two young talents behind him they may have made the right decision.
Either way-right or wrong-the decision was based on the assumption that Adams and Oladipo would continue to develop.
Yet, their current coach hasn’t shown the ability to be a great player developer in college or with the Thunder.
Donovan may very well be the man to help this team grow, but then again that is another assumption. Every player must be more than they are now for the Thunder to become who they want to be.
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