OKC Thunder: 3 economical free agents Sam Presti should target

OKC Thunder free agent targets: Timberwolves forward Jarred Vanderbilt (8): Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
OKC Thunder free agent targets: Timberwolves forward Jarred Vanderbilt (8): Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports /
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OKC Thunder
OKC Thunder free agency targets: Blazers forward Harry Giles: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

While the OKC Thunder roster is filled with young promising players, one position/role that lacks many starting-caliber players is the center position. While Jeremiah Earl Robinson was only recently drafted and signed to a long-term deal, it may be unreasonable to expect him to immediately become a high-minute player, especially as a second-round pick.

After being extremely busy in the NBA draft with 4 rookies signed to contracts, the OKC Thunder have been relatively quiet as it pertains to Free Agency. For a young rebuilding team, this is not a concern whatsoever however there are some players still left in free agency who could be bargains while simultaneously meeting the franchise timeline.

Given the Thunder cap space, here are three specific players Sam Presti should consider pursuing with their cap space.

OKC Thunder free agent target No. 1: Harry Giles

Harry Giles first became a household name when he came out of high school as the top prospect on ESPN’s recruiting rankings and was ranked similarly highly by many outlets.

After a season at Duke, Giles landed in Sacramento where he showed promise on both ends in limited minutes as the backup center in his three seasons with the franchise. His 2020-21 season with the Blazers was a disappointing experience as he was used as a third-string center in an injury-riddled season, missing many due to DNPs and injury as a result.

One of Giles’ biggest strengths as a big is his touch around the rim. His excellent career 72 percent field goal percentage from 0 to 3 feet on nearly 40 percent of his attempts is a good indicator of his ability near the rim and as a play-finisher.

The Modern NBA offense (such as one the Thunder would want to build for their future) ideally requires capable passers in each position and the 23-year-old Giles fits the bill perfectly as he can make reads from a variety of situations.

While the 2020-21 season was disappointing, there was some promise with Giles’ jump shooting as the former Duke man attempted and made career highs from long mid-range and 3-point range. Giles would make an impressive 56 percent of his shots from 16′ out to the perimeter on a relatively small sample while making a respectable 35 percent of his 3-point shots which varied from pick and pop plays to corner treys.

Along with his aforementioned offensive skills, Giles’ mobility at his size was one of the biggest reasons behind his hype which started in high school. Giles’ mobility especially helps him defend the pick and roll very well, one of the most important skills in the modern NBA.

So why hasn’t a team signed Giles yet? The aforementioned disappointing 2020-21 season which saw the skilled big man relegated to the end of the Trail Blazers bench for certainly didn’t help his case.

A bigger concern that was also apparent this season was Giles’ injury issues. While many lanky, skinny centers suffer a similar fate, Giles has been plagued with various knee injuries since making the league in 2017.

This past campaign, Giles dealt with calf injuries sidelining him for many of the 34 games he missed. From an on-court perspective, his post defense versus opposing big men is questionable. He also has some bad fouling habits which partially may be due to him not being able to hold his own against size.

Giles is far from a guaranteed success but there’s a genuine talent there and he’s shown flashes of it in his pro career.  OKC medical and coaching staff have a great reputation of rehabilitating other players so it’s worth a flyer on the former number one ranked prospect.

If the OKC Thunder can successfully address Giles’ frame and fitness issues, the team could be looking at the long-term center of their future roster.