NLL Insider - Team by Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
by wizkid, updated on Sunday, October 08 2017, 12:02 am EST
Continued Ascension - The Thunder had a meteoric rise from 2015 to 2016 - going from a 24-win cellar dweller with a lot of guys with a lot of potential to a rock solid playoff team. 2016 to 2017 saw them take another leap. While the number of wins added isn't as shocking (+32 last year, +5 this year), the the jump itself it probably even harder to make. Going from a non-playoff team to a playoff team is something that many teams do... going from a playoff team to a contender is even tougher. Seeing this unfold with all of the prospects and young studs on the OKC team has been exciting to watch.
The lowlight ends up being the same for all but one contender at the end of the year - the conclusion. There was legitimate thought that, especially with a Joel Embiid injury, the Thunder should be representing the Western Conference in the Finals. However, the Thunder fell just short of making it to the Conference Finals in a game 7 disappointment in Sacramento. While there is still tremendous optimism about the Thunder's future, especially given the arrival of Paul George, it's hard to go home early come playoff time.
The Oklahoma City Thunder send Joffrey Lauvergne to the Golden State Warriors.
The Golden State Warriors send a 1st-Rounder (Dal) to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Oklahoma City Thunder send a 2nd-Rounder (OKC) to the Golden State Warriors.
The Golden State Warriors receive 10 GM points. The Oklahoma City Thunder trade -10 GM points.
This one was pretty imbalanced in my opinion. The Thunder sent a marginal role player, a late second and a handful of GM points to the Warriors for what ended up being the 2nd overall pick. A lot of it is probably hindsight, because Lauvergne was still seen as having value and the Mavericks hadn't thrown it into a full-on rebuild at this point. But in hindsight - that was brutal for Golden State.
The Oklahoma City Thunder send Robert Covington to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cleveland Cavaliers send a 1st-Rounder (Cle) to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Nenjabin has built this once-crappy team into a powerhouse through shrewd moves and hoarding picks. But I really don't like this one. I know this is the very typical powerhouse move of needing to trade away a guy that will get paid big time in the near future and a first-round pick is what you should look to get back. But from a value perspective, Covington is starting-quality wing that fits into nearly any lineup due to his range and defensive abilities. At the time of the deal, he was locked up at near-minimum money for two season. I feel like you either get a better pick for him or hold onto him and see what happens - but this author's cap management abilities are also worth questioning.
Other Notable Trades:
The Dallas Mavericks send a 1st-Rounder (Mil) to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Oklahoma City Thunder send a 1st-Rounder (Dal) to the Dallas Mavericks.
Smokey wanted his pick back, and for good reason. OKC took advantage of this in order to make a move. However, it really doesn't seem like they got back the kind of value I would have liked. I'm personally pretty high on Abrines, and some of the shine has gone off of Mirotic - I definitely don't feel like the difference warranted trading down from #2 to #29. Mirotic and Lonzo Ball for Abrines and Derrick White sounds pretty bad right now. If it wasn't so heavily based on hindsight, this would have warranted worst trade consideration for the Thunder.
The Oklahoma City Thunder send a 1st-Rounder (Mil) and 1st-Rounder (Mia) to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
To me, this one seemed like a win-win. OKC cashes in a good player that doesn't carry a huge role for them, along with some picks - and nets another star player to give them a four-headed monster of Draymond Green, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, and Nikola Jokic.
The Minnesota Timberwolves send Wesley Matthews to the Orlando Magic. The Minnesota Timberwolves send Tyson Chandler to the Toronto Raptors. The Oklahoma City Thunder send Jonas Valanciunas to the Orlando Magic. The Orlando Magic send Danilo Gallinari and DeMarcus Cousins to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Toronto Raptors send John Henson to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
I'm not a huge fan of flipping JV for Henson from a value perspective - but it does at least save them several million dollars.
Another move that may have been setup by money constraints. Burks has since been flipped for Stauskus.
Best FA Signing:
JaVale McGee - McGee was actually a pretty huge signing for the Thunder. He played 15 min/game across 63 games this season and averaged around 6 and 6. This was the kind of move that isn't going to make headlines - the transaction didn't even yield a single comment, but knowing where a weakness is and finding a cheap role player to fill that need adequately is one of the things that great GMs do.
Worst FA Signing:
Tomas Satoransky - It's always super-exciting when one of your draft and stash guys comes to the league. It's almost like you're getting a free draft pick because you paid for it years ago and it has finally come due. That said, Satoransky signed a deal that is the equivalent of about what the 8th pick in the draft made. He was really a bit of a flop... he's still got some potential, but he shot under 40% from the field and even worse (26%) from deep. The Thunder have already moved on from him - shipping him out for a second rounder so that they can hit reset on the draft and stash game.
Draymond Green - For years Draymond has been "not a 2k" player. He's started some games everywhere he's gone because he's seen as a guy that should start. But it wasn't even until the 2015/2016 season that he averaged double figure scoring (and only 10.3 points/game then). But 2016/2017 was a pretty big leap for him. He averaged 18/10/3 with about a steal and a block per night. He started all 82 games for the Thunder for the 2nd straight season and was their emotional leader.
Nikola Jokic - It seems crazy to say this now, because over the season Jokic only averaged 10 and 6 despite playing 32 minutes/game. But Jokic was starting by the end of the season and looks like a guy that went from trying to find his way into the rotation in the preseason to franchise cornerstone by the end of it. He's got 2 more season on a super cheap deal and puts OKC in place to be able to afford the start-studded roster that they have assembled because of it.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - OKC was so patient with this guy and he never truly rewarded them. Sure, he started 82 games for them this year, but he was always one of their weaker guys on the floor. He plays solid D, but with his lack of shooting ability and the team's preference at point guard being Ricky Rubio - he really provided as many challenges as he did solutions. MKG was finally, and somewhat unceremoniously offloaded to LA for what ultimately became Jonah Bolen and Nik Stauskus... two guys that probably won't move the needle for the Thunder.
Draft Report Card:
The critics agreed that this draft fell somewhere in the B range. Heading into the season, their two rookies will be Luke Kennard (17th) and Jonah Bolden (25th). Neither will really be asked to do much other than develop and be ready in the future, should their time come. The fact that even while sending out picks for players to add to their core, the Thunder were able to add two first rounders is impressive all by itself.
Looking to the Future:
In my power rankings of the future, I have the Thunder behind only one other team - another draft pick hoarder in the Milwaukee Bucks. Their biggest weakness is point guard, and even their they have two serviceable starters. They'll likely spend this season under the luxury line - insane for this roster. And while they are at an all-time low of 2 first rounders owned in the next 3 years - they do hold a crazy 13 second round picks. The Thunder are one of those powerhouse teams that others in the league look at and try to figure out how they'll ever compete, and that's only two years out from a 24-win season. I was surprisingly critical of a few of their recent trades when looking back at their last season, but I have no doubt that this team is in great hands and will probably be making a trip to the Finals sometime in the near future.
Upcoming Free Agents:
Dennis Schroeder - Scroeder is ready to get paid. He's restricted, so he'll most likely be back. Not often you see a team choose to let a good 24-year-old walk away without compensation. If he isn't going to start for them, that 15+ mil price tag is tough to swallow when you've got so many other mouths to feed, but that's a problem for later.
Nikola Mirotic - The "other" Nikola. He's due ~12 mil. Presumably they wouldn't have traded Abrines and a high lottery pick for him if they didn't think he was part of the long-term plan. But looking at the salary numbers, maybe they could find similar talent on a cheaper contract via sign and trade. If you assume Dennis is coming back, this contract puts them into the luxury cap even before spending any of their MLE or filling their last two roster spots. This is an interesting choice.
JaVale McGee – Sure, if a cheap role player wants to come back and help out – why not!?