3 OKC Thunder players who might not return in 2023-24 season

Lindy Waters III #12 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images)
Lindy Waters III #12 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
Lindy Waters III #12 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Despite being a great story, Lindy Waters III presents a difficult decision for Sam Presti.

As an obvious caveat to all of the names on this list, especially Lindy Waters III, I really enjoy talking to and covering these players. Waters III was a blast to be around from his time in the NBA G-League, where he told me he ditched the headband seen above because it was squeezing his head too much, to when he inked a standard NBA pact for the first time in his career but remained the same guy.

The hard reality is, for as much admiration as every Oklahoman has for his story, this is a business, and someone has to be the odd one(s) out. But, from growing up in Norman, going to Oklahoma State, being undrafted and playing in pro-am league in Enid, to making the G-League on a tryout, earning a two-way pact, then signing an NBA deal, no matter what happens this offseason, Waters III is a success story—someone to be proud of and celebrate in this state.

Though, his game has apparent flaws. Namely his shooting. The 25-year-old is considered this sharpshooter, and he seems to have the skills to be one, but so far in his NBA career, he shoots the trey ball at a 36 percent clip, barely above league average. Through 66 games in his career, he is averaging six points, two rebounds, and nearly an assist per game while turning in shooting splits of 40/36/80.

However, he stuck in Mark Daigneault’s rotation, even in the NBA Play-In tournament, because of his much-improved defense. Synergy tabs Waters III as a “very good” defender, ranking in the 69th percentile and allowing just 0.924 points per possession.

Defense is a hard thing to measure and understand. However, his leap was noticeable even to the casual fan at home rooting for the team. That is incredibly hard to do on that end of the floor. But he was awesome, especially as a help-side defender.

So what is his future outlook on this OKC Thunder roster? Lindy Waters III has a team option of 1.9 million dollars this offseason that Sam Presti must decide what to do with. Past that, Waters III is a restricted free agent in 2024-25 if the option is picked up for the 2023-24 campaign.

The deciding factor in that option has to come down to his shooting. Do you believe that with a summer of work and the comfortability of having a more certain future, Waters III can take a leap in three-point percentage at the NBA level as his defense did this season?

There are reasons to be optimistic that he can improve his production from beyond the arc. When coming off screens, Waters III produces 1.591 points per possession, ranking in the 100th percentile. Though, that is just 21 attempts.

According to cleaning the glass, Lindy Waters III shot 50 percent from the corners (94th percentile) and 35 percent on non-corner triples. In the mid-range, the Oklahoma State product shot 80 percent (99th percentile); at the rim, he turned in 73 percent (84th percentile).

Ultimately, there are a lot of signs pointing to Lindy Waters III’s job being safe this summer, despite how easy it is for them to move on from him financially, but there are still tough decisions to be made for the OKC Thunder.