The Thunder proved with Russell Westbrook on two separate occasions and Paul George — more on PG a bit later — in 2018 that they have had some success re-signing their own free agents, but can they bring someone into the Thunder legacy without drafting or trading for them first?
Currently, the Thunder have just over 100 million on the books for the 2023-24 season, and with the salary cap projected to be 134 million next season and the tax line projecting at 162 million, Sam Presti has put the franchise in the position to be flexible this coming summer.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have a secret pitch they can use when it comes to meeting with free agents, but will the angle work?
Presti and the Thunder will always be at a disadvantage when pitching to free agents because they cannot offer electric nightlife or sunny beaches. However, what Presti and the Thunder can pitch is something that is perhaps a much more valuable, prestigious culture.
As seen in the above tweet Al Horford, Kemba Walker, Chris Paul, and other former Thunder players have all offered high praise for the Thunder culture. When the Thunder acquired Paul George in 2017, both Kevin Durant and Reggie Jackson reached out to PG, touting positive things regarding the Thunder.
Maybe the most important bit of praise the Thunder have ever garnered came nearly one year ago during All-Star weekend courtesy of the King himself, LeBron James:
What makes LeBron’s praise so valuable is he has never played for the Thunder, he is simply taking notice from afar. Positive outside observations and mutual intrigue are exactly what the Thunder are hoping from a potential free agent the team will eventually target.
Excluding George, because he was already a member of the team, the Thunder’s biggest free agent signing is tied between Derek Fisher, Patrick Patterson, and Mike Muscala. This trio of players helped the Thunder in various ways and helped make the team better. With that said, nobody in that group was an All-Star, or even close to it. Yes, the Oklahoma City Thunder could be a play-in or playoff team this season. If they truly want to be a contender once more Shai Gilgeous-Alexander needs an All-Star teammate. Maybe Sam Presti can finally add one via free agency this summer, or the summer of 2024.
Editors note: The Thunder do not need to make a big splash in free agency this summer, and in all likelihood will never be able to. However, the culture they continue to provide to veterans might sway some high-level rotational veterans to join this squad as their young team continues to shine through a few years from now.