Summer of Thunder or Blunder?
This summer’s NBA free agency certainly has been one of the more interesting ones (that’s to say the least). KG and Paul Pierce join the NJ Nets, Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith depart their respective teams for Detroit, and Dwight Howard skips LA to join the bearded man in Houston. Moreso, the coaching carousel has been by far the craziest it has been in ever.
Some teams however elected to keep their cool and do nothing amidst the offseason moves made by other teams. I mean absolutely nothing. The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of these teams. The Thunder made not a single offseason trade or acquisition during the summer 2013 signing period. They in fact seem to have gotten worse after losing the services of their sixth man shooting guard Kevin Martin to the Minnesota Timberwolves and their assistant coach Maurice Cheeks to the Pistons.
But did the Thunder really get worse? Is it possible that they in fact improved? Here is evidence why their motionlessness during this offseason may have made them better, not worse.
- Remain under the Cap. Because the Thunder did not sign James Harden to an expensive contract last year, and because they elected to not resign Kevin Martin for this upcoming season, the Thunder will remain slightly below the luxury tax limit set by the league (which stands to be around 72 million dollars). This will provide the team flexibility to trade players, sign players next season, and sign players in the future (especially if they elect to amnesty Kendrick Perkins)
- Jeremy Lamb. Who will replace the potent scoring of Kevin Martin? Lamb, that’s who. This summers NBA action concluded with the Oklahoma City Thunder winning the first-ever Orlando Summer league championship over the Houston Rockets. Jeremy Lamb led the pack. Lamb made the first team NBA summer squad after averaging 19 points a game. If Lamb’s game translates well into the NBA and he is able to average north of 10 points a game with 4 assists, he will compliment KD and a healthy Russ when they return to the courts in November.
- Reggie Jackson. I’m sure everyone remembers when Russell Westbrook went down with the devastating leg injury that ended his season last year in the playoffs. That was sad. One good thing that came from it however was Reggie Jackson landing the starting PG position for the remainder of the playoffs. Dude got some serious playoff experience as he demonstrated how dominant he can be as an office weapon. During the summer league, Jackson continued this trend by making second team NBA summer league and averaging 19.5 points. If Jackson continues to improve in this manner, his presence will stabilize the sixth man position and make the Thunder depth/bench much more improved.
- KD, Russ, Serge improving. I think this is an obvious point, so lets not harp on it too much. The Thunder starting 5 is young, and none have even reached their prime (save Perkins). If they continue to improve each year the way that they have in years past, the Thunders starting unit will be unmatched in the Western conference.
Although the Thunders summer moves (or lack thereof) seem idle, they may have improved in ways that reflect years past. Jeff Green was replaced by James Harden which seemed to work out seamlessly and for the better. San Antonio followed a similar scheme when they lost George Hill to the Pacers by acquiring Kahwi Leonard. All in all, the Thunder should remain as the team to beat in the Western conference and a favorite to make it back to finals despite the pieces they lost this offseason.