What is the Oklahoma City Thunder’s next move going to be?
The OKC Thunder witnessed big roster shifts this season, so what is their next big move?
To say the OKC Thunder have been in a transition period ever since Kevin Durant decided to join the Warriors is an under statement. After he announced his decision, the focus of the Thunder organization switched to Russell Westbrook.
One month to the day after Kevin Durant announced his departure Russell Westbrook signed a contract extension. This extension allowed Westbrook to renegotiate and added about $9 million to his previous contract this season. It also keeps him in Oklahoma City next year.
What the Thunder got in addition to a commitment from Westbrook was time. Time to reshape this roster, to not only fill the gaping void left by Durant’s departure, but to shape it with players who fit around Westbrook.
Since the Westbrook extension the Thunder have been relatively quiet. They cut their roster down to 15 in training camp losing Mitch McGary and Ronnie Price. Then in a shocking move, traded Ersan Illyasova to the Philadelphia 76ers along with a protected 1st round pick for Jerami Grant. A Thunder team that was a couple minutes away from the NBA Finals, is now the second youngest team (as per basketball reference) in the league behind the up and coming Minnesota Timberwolves.
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Fans have been looking for the earth shattering move from Thunder General Manager Sam Presti that vaults this team into the contention conversation. They are hoping for names like Paul George or Blake Griffin, but the Thunder do not have those kind of assets and the new collective bargaining agreement made it more difficult to sign those types of players in free agency.
Others have mentioned Rudy Gay as a stop gap and someone who would make this team better, despite all the evidence that suggests that every team he leaves instantly gets better with his departure. Some have even suggested the the Thunder should trade Westbrook and start over.
These moves are antithetical to the way in which Presti operates. He is patient, yet decisive and proactive. While Durant’s decision was looming over the franchise, Presti made the trade that sent Serge Ibaka to the Magic for Domantas Sabonis, Victor Oladipo and Ersan Ilyasova.
It would have been easy for Presti to walk into the meeting with Durant and say ‘we were one Klay Thompson explosion away from the Finals, lets run it back.’ Presti operates differently though. He saw an opportunity to move on from a player that was regressing and in the final year of his contract to add a 20 year old rookie whose skill set is exactly what fits Billy Donovan’s system along with the 3 and D shooting guard that the Thunder have long coveted.
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Related Story: Why losing Oladipo was the best thing for the Thunder
So what should the OKC Thunder do?
The Thunder now have a young core of Steven Adams, Victor Oladipo, Andre Roberson and Domantas Sabonis around Westbrook. They also have a young bench with Alex Abrines, Jofferey Lauvergne, Jerami Grant and Cameron Payne. All of these players have so much room to grow, which makes the Thunder’s next move even more difficult.
There are so many unknowns with Cameron Payne being injured all season, Victor Oladipo getting injured just as he was getting comfortable. Add that to the fact Abrines, Lauvergne and Grant have all seen inconsistent playing time and you have one of the most confusing teams in the NBA.
There is no hurry for the Thunder at the moment. They have the opportunity to be patient, as other GMs try to make moves to save their jobs or to reach unrealistic goals set before the season. Do not mistake this patience for complacency.
For now, the best move is waiting to see what you have in all of these young players and how they fit together. So sit back and enjoy this young team figuring it out on the fly and marvel at what Russell Westbrook is able to do night in and night out. Lastly, just be patient.