Viable veteran options?
The Thunder last season were the second youngest team in NBA history, only trailing the 2021-2022 OKC Thunder. Vasilje Micic, while being a rookie, managed to help boost the Thunder’s average as he joined the team at 29 years old.
Veteran voices are incredibly important to the culture of a locker room, being role models and the heartbeat or the soul of the locker room, as Mark Daigneault described Kenrich Williams’ impact on the team off the floor.
The chopping block doesn’t have an age preference, but these next two players are definitely fighting an uphill battle in pursuit of staying on the Thunder for the upcoming season.
Reunited, and it feels so good? Victor Oladipo was a big part of two of the more infamous trades in Thunder history. He joined the Thunder after being traded along with Domantas Sabonis in exchange for Serge Ibaka. Oladipo was thrust into being the second banana to Russell Westbrook after Kevin Durant’s departure to Golden State. Oladipo was Westbrook’s running mate on his journey to winning an MVP. Unfortunately, the playoffs proved to be a different story, where Oladipo looked a little stunned by the bright lights of the postseason. That offseason, the Woj Bombs hit OKC as the Thunder traded Oladipo and Sabonis for Paul George.
Six years later and Victor Oladipo was traded back to the Thunder by the Miami Heat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Oladipo will have a chance to play for the Thunder. Between the current roster crunch, young guys who need developmental minutes, and debilitating injuries, it feels hard to imagine Oladipo in a Thunder jersey on the floor this season.
April 23rd, 2023, in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, Victor Oladipo suffered a torn patellar tendon in his left knee. This would lead to Oladipo’s third major surgery in four years.
Oladipo’s best bet to stay on the roster is as a locker room voice, veteran presence, and salary that could be moved later in the season. Oladipo is owed roughly $9.45 million this year on an expiring deal. Sam Presti has made a living flipping expiring contracts for longer-term bad money that teams attach draft compensation to. This could be another example of Presti’s habits, or it could lead to what many fans are clamoring for in trading Oladipo’s salary and draft compensation in exchange for a player who could be a more immediate help to OKC on the floor.
Regardless of the outcome, the best case that Oladipo has to remain on the roster is if the Thunder believe in their ability to flip him later this season or at the trade deadline and that he provides experience and knowledge to a young locker room. Oladipo is not the player he was, but he was an All-Star player, most improved player award winner, all-defensive player, and a one-time All-NBA player. Just looking at things from a positive viewpoint, if he can avoid the chopping block, I think that Oladipo could bring a unique perspective to the locker room that could really add to the current developing young core in OKC.
A four-year player at Duke, Jack White was known as a tough defender, a great teammate, and described as “He’s good,” according to fellow Aussie Josh Giddey.
White is not the highest-profile player with tons of super-accessible tape. The 25-year-old has done the brunt of his recent work at the G-League level with the Denver Nuggets affiliate, the Grand Rapid Gold. At the G-League level, White averaged 18 points, nine rebounds, two assists, and 1.8 STOCKS per game.
The OKC Thunder are no strangers to tough-minded defenders who can knock down a few shots from deep. See Aaron Wiggins and Kenrich Williams, for example. White’s path to a roster spot is all about the deep ball. At 25 years old, he is already at a disadvantage; historically, there aren’t many NBA players who break out at 25 years or older who weren’t high-level prospects.
This is not to say that White can’t do it, but the odds aren’t in his favor. OKC Thunder fans will get a taste of White on the floor in the upcoming World Cup as he will play alongside Josh Giddey for Team Australia.