Western Conference early free agency moves put OKC Thunder on high alert

OKC Thunder Steven Adams, Russell Westbrook and Paul George. (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)
OKC Thunder Steven Adams, Russell Westbrook and Paul George. (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside (21) (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images) /

The Portland Trail Blazers bounced the Thunder out of the playoffs last year, and they improved greatly.

The Portland Trailblazers made a run all the way to the Western Conference Finals a year ago, a run that featured Portland dominating the OKC Thunder in the first round.

Before free agency even got underway, the Blazers traded for Hawks wing Kent Bazemore.

Then the Blazers started their free agency period by extending Rodney Hood. The team also brought in Anthony Tolliver on a one year deal, a floor-spacing 3-ball shooter from the power forward spot that will provide a ton of value on a minimum deal.

The Trail Blazers also maxed out Damian Lillard to keep the star point guard in Portland for four more years.

In another new addition, the Blazers inked Mario Hezonja, an interesting piece when added to a very good team.

That was not all though, the Blazers helped the Miami Heat land Jimmy Butler in a sign and trade from the Philadelphia 76ers when the Blazers agreed to take on disgruntled big man Hassan Whiteside.

Whiteside is a starting caliber big man but has to figure out how to put it all together consistently. Whiteside will be key as the Blazers While typical starting big man Jusuf Nurkic, rehabs from a gruesome injury sustained at the end of the regular season a year ago.

These moves make Portland better, but for the OKC Thunder, the Blazers were already a three seed a year ago. That means no one has to lose their spot if Portland return to the playoffs. OKC was able to sweep the Blazers in the regular season before their disappointing first-round series. A season sweep does not seem likely this season, however.