With the offseason near closing, the team here at Thunderous Intentions sat down to talk about the offseason in Oklahoma City. We rate Sam Presti’s offseason moves, how LeBron’s decision to head home to Cleveland will affect Durant’s decision come 2017 and more.
1. Do you see Durant leaving Oklahoma City for Washington in two years?
Mark Bruty: Quite simply – NO. This “going home” fad is relatively new and is only due to LeBron James returning to Cleveland – something he HAD to do in order to try and restore his legacy. Durant doesn’t suffer the same affliction. He is almost universally loved and therefore doesn’t need to make any moves for approval. I also believe that winning eases any issue and I don’t see any other team – even Washington – being ready to compete for the next decade like OKC are. For more, check out this article I wrote.
Eli Friedman: It’s so hard to tell, because it depends on so many things. Will the Thunder finally win a title before his contract expires? Will Westbrook want to leave? A lot of factors go into the decision. The Wizards brought in one of Durant’s AAU/High School connects, which means they’re clearly all in for Durant. As much as I don’t want to say it, I could definitely see it happening.
Chris Shifflett: It will all hinge on if Durant can win an NBA Championship in the next two seasons. If he does, he stays. If he doesn’t, he’s gone.
Ben Bundy: No. He has a chance to continue and end his career with a franchise and a fan base that adores him. Not to mention that OKC can offer him just as much or more money than Washington when the time comes. If the team goes out next offseason and makes a splash in free agency then we can expect them to be a contender for years to come. All the more reason for Durant to stay put.
John VanSant: No. KD has proven over the last 8 years that he loves the city he plays for, and the city has proved that they love him. While he feels the championship expectations placed on him by OKC, it’s not nearly to the same extent LeBron felt when he was drafted by Cleveland. And the Thunder are simply better than the Wizards. Why leave a team that is a yearly contender for another that doesn’t have the skill to get past the second round?
2. Does LeBron’s decision of “going home” have any impact on Durant?
Mark Bruty: See above, but Durant has never been one to follow simply because LeBron does something. Durant is a different superstar and always wants to make everything “his own”. He is all about leaving a mark but doing it his way. While they are friendly rivals, KD doesn’t look up to James. He appreciates his game but that is where it ends. Sure, James got a lot of kudos for going home, but KD doesn’t need to rack up the same sort of brownie points since the NBA and all its fan already love him.
Eli Friedman: Durant and LeBron have two different personalities, but still, LeBron going home has to have an impact on Durant. The piece James wrote for SI.com gave me the chills, and the first thing I thought of was Durant writing this about going home to DC in two years. I wouldn’t be surprised if it became a trend in the league, and more guys starting doing it. Who knows? Maybe in ten years, Andrew Wiggins will go back home and play for the Raptors.
Chris Shifflett: Honestly, yes. I know none of us care to admit it, but you can tell it weighs on his mind.
Ben Bundy: First off, you can hardly call a two-year contract with an opt-out clause after the first season “coming home”. That being said, LeBron’s choice to head back to Cleveland doesn’t impact Durant in the slightest. Durant has never been one to mimic his idols. Since he entered the league he has done things his way. If for some reason he decides to go to Washington in 2016 it would be completely his decision.
John VanSant: Absolutely not. Durant has shown throughout his entire career that not only is he is own player, but that he’s also his own man. Add on to that the fact that he is beloved by the entire world and it seems clear that there is no need for him to take his talents to the Potomac.
3. Did the Thunder do “enough” to get over the top?
Mark Bruty: The Thunder addressed immediate issues while also protecting themselves for the future. Each year we see teams re-tool and the Thunder get criticized for not doing enough, but OKC are always at the top of their game, winning nearly 60 games and contending. This will be no different. Steven Adams, Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones will all be better, Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka will all be better and Jackson will be much improved. The rotations will work well as Scott Brooks continues to alter his methods and they addressed two big needs – outside shooting (they landed one of the very best in Anthony Morrow) and a third string PG who can pass the ball and run an offense (Sebastian Telfair is a serviceable replacement for Derek Fisher). The Heat are no more, which means there is no real “beast in the East” to worry about. We almost dethroned the Spurs with a half done Ibaka and while they have also added necessary pieces and will be better – OKC have to be considered one of the favourites.
Eli Friedman: If you look around the league, besides Chicago, no contender from last year really made any drastic moves. Miami lost their guy, San Antonio drafted Kyle Anderson(but that’s about it), and Indiana pretty much just lost Lance Stevenson. So, as Thunder fans start to hit the panic button on Sam Presti not making any moves, they should hold their horses because no many other teams got that much better either.
Chris Shifflett: Not yet. Adams and McGary developing during the season will go a long way in determining if the Thunder get over the hump this time around.
Ben Bundy: The team took care of some issues that had to be dealt with. Anthony Morrow will provide some much needed shooting from beyond the arch. As a result, you will see defenders become a bit more hesitant to leave their man in order to help guard Durant or Westbrook. Sebastian Telfair will do just fine in replacing the role of Derek Fisher as a veteran back up guard who can run the offense. The team will rely on the improvement of their young players in order to fill the rest of the teams needs. However, the team did win 59 games last season, so they didn’t need to improve on much.
John VanSant: During free agency, the Thunder addressed their main need: shooting. By signing Anthony Morrow, the Thunder now have provided themselves with a consistent, knockdown shooter who can be prone to bust out for a game or two. But you also can’t discredit the bench unit of Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Steven Adams, and Perry Jones, who all showed development in this year’s Summer League. Add on Mitch McGary who is being groomed to become the next Nick Collison and it seems the Thunder had a mildly productive summer.
4. What is Anthony Morrow going to bring to this team?
Mark Bruty: Morrow is going to provide the Oklahoma City Thunder offense with a “pressure relief valve”. He HAS to be respected as one of the best outside shooters in the game and when paired with Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka, he is going to get plenty of looks. Now the Thunder can confidently kick the ball out behind the arc on dribble drives or from the post and see positive results. It also means that opposition defenders won’t be able to leave their man and help out on KD and Russ as much which is only going to help the offensive efficiency of those stars. An added offensive weapon who can hit clutch baskets is just what the doctor (and OKC) ordered – and Sam Presti delivered.
Eli Friedman: Morrow is going to be exactly what the Thunder needed: A deadly three-point shooter. All championship teams have knock down shooters, and Morrow is that type of guy. Besides for Daquan Cook back in 2011, the Thunder haven’t really had a guy to hit consistently(!!) knock down three point shots. What made Miami so deadly was their ability to drive and kick to open shooters like Ray Allen, Shane Battier and James Jones. Now, Oklahoma City has that ability.
Chris Shifflett: A knock-down perimeter shooter who will hit 3-pointers when they are badly needed.
Ben Bundy: Morrow has proven to be one of the most deadly shooters from deep. He gives the team a weapon to help space the floor as well as someone to kick the ball out to when the defense collapses to the paint. Sam Presti did a great job getting Morrow to come to OKC. A shooter of his level is always needed by any team, so landing him was no easy task.
John VanSant: As stated before, Morrow brings something to the team that it has never really had: someone who can drain threes. Playing on a team with Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka, Morrow will be asked to stand at the top of the key and drain threes whenever the ball is kicked out to him. His presence will force defenses to clear the lane as they must respect his sweet shooting stroke, giving the ballhandler a clear lane to the basket.
5. Give Sam Presti a grade for the offseason
Mark Bruty: B+. Sure he swung for the fences and was unable to land Pau Gasol – but he gave it a red hot go. Then – as mentioned previously – he went about adding basic but required pieces. The draft day deal with Josh Huestis was a stroke of genius and he also snared a trade exception for Thabo Sefolosha. While it may again go unused, it is another asset that might prove valuable at some stage. The off-season isn’t over and there is plenty of speculation about what may happen with Reggie Jackson, but for now Presti has done a very good job. Telfair is a cheap and low risk option as a back up point guard and the drafting of Mitch McGary looks like a steal already. Wunderkind Sam does it again.
Eli Friedman: B. The quote “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it” is a good one. But the main question right now is: Was it broken? Did the Thunder really need to add better personnel this offseason or just get healthy and have another year to develop?
Chris Shifflett: A+. The plan for Josh Huestis, while puzzling initially, just shows that Presti understands NBA roster management in a way that the rest of us most likely never will.
Ben Bundy: B+. When the offseason started I planned for the front office to play it safe once again. For the most part that’s exactly what they did. The deals for Morrow and Telfair, while not particularly exciting, were two that had to be made. Rookie Mitch McGary looks to have a ton of upside, which is great considering the teams need of contributing big men. The loss of Thabo Sefolosha could show early, but the team has plenty of young players to fill that gap. The last thing I’ll say, and the reason I graded so high, is due to the fact that the team seriously pursued Pau Gasol. It was pipe dream from the start, but it showed Thunder fans that their front office isn’t afraid to swing for the fences. Something that should be evident next offseason.
John VanSant: A-. While it may not have been a splashy offseason for OKC, Presti and the front office worked their magic and addressed the team’s critical needs while also attending to the departure of Derek Fisher with the signing of PG Sebastian Telfair. Throw in the draft picks Mitch McGary, Semaj Christon, Fuquan Edwin and the mysterious Josh Huestis deal and it once looks like the Thunder will contend for the title.
Join the discussion and tell us what you think about Durant leaving Oklahoma City to go home, and give Sam Presti an offseason grade! Comment below.