If you are an avid Thunder fan like myself, you have to be wondering what’s next for the Thunder. We all want them to not only contend but ultimately win the NBA championship. So the question we will hopefully attempt to answer is what needs to happen for the Thunder to once again become one of the handful of teams in the NBA that can not only compete but quite possibly win a championship.
1 – Don’t Panic
The Thunder roster has a bunch of young talent that still has room for improvement. There is still further room for growth for Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Andre Roberson, Alex Abrines, Cameron Payne, Josh Huestis, Mitch McGary, Domantas Sabonis, and Victor Oladipo. There is even dimensions to Westbrook’s game that can and should improve as he is just now entering his prime.
Very few teams that lose a mega star like Kevin Durant can trot out a roster as talented as the Thunder have for this season. They are young, athletic, and have a bunch of upside.
2 – Figure Out the Small Forward Position
The consensus seems to be that Andre Roberson will now be the Thunder’s starting small forward. It makes sense on one level as Roberson’s growth on the offensive and defensive end has put him in a seemingly must start situation. That being said there is a lack of wing depth (especially at small forward).
3 – Re-Develop a Bench
With Durant gone, players that played in a reserve role will now see their minutes expand. You also remove Dion Waiters, Serge Ibaka, and to a lesser extent Randy Foye and the Thunder are now in a situation where developing a bench becomes necessary. This means that the development of players like Cameron Payne and Alex Abrines are crucial. The Thunder must find players that can play outside on the wing. Further they should find out what they have in Kyle Singler. He can’t seriously be any worse can he? Also let’s find out what they have in Josh Huestis.
4- Victor Oladipo Must Take the Next Step
Oladipo has seen has 3pt % increase from 32.7% to 34.8& over his first three seasons. Should that number climb to 37% Oladipo will most likely become an All-Star. Should Oladipo live up to his potential he has the ability to become an incredible 2-way player in the NBA.
5 – Additional Post Defense that Can Switch on the Perimeter
With the pick and roll happy NBA, the Thunder must provide Steven Adams some help in pick and roll defense. This is where Serge Ibaka’s presence will be missed the most. I’m not sure that player is on the current Thunder roster, although I think an intriguing option would be to give Josh Huestis some rotation minutes at power forward as he has a 7-1 wingspan even though he is 6-7.
6 – Hit on Their 2017 1st Round Draft Pick
The 2017 Draft by all accounts is stacked. Some are saying just as stacked as the 2015 draft which has already produced Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, D’angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay, Justise Winslow, Devin Booker, and Myles Turner.
While the Thunder will not be a lottery team, they should have the ability to add real talent through the 2017 draft. While a wing player seemingly makes the most sense consider the current roster, I could also envision a scenario where OKC draft a post presence (if they decide to make a player like Kanter) or a point guard (if they trade Cameron Payne) for an NBA ready wing. Personally I would keep an eye on one of these two guys if I were OKC Thunder fans. Og Anunoby or Jaron Blossomgame
7 – Carefully Add to the Roster Via Trades or Free Agency.
I will say this out of the gate. Blake Griffin would be fun and a great name, but would make it really hard to build a roster that could actually shoot from beyond the arc. Gordon Hayward makes a ton of sense, but he will cost you a fortune and would put the current roster in a financial crunch (basically no Kanter, Morrow, Collison, Ilyasova, McGary, Huestis).
Trades can and do make some sense. Here are my ideas of who is available on the Thunder roster.
NOT AVAILABLE: Russ, Adams, Oladipo, Collison,
MAYBE AVAILABLE: Payne, Roberson, Sabonis, Abrines
AVAILABLE: Huestis, McGary, Kanter, Morrow, Ilyasova, Singler
Also the Thunder can trade their 2020 1st round pick.
So maybe you could get a Gallinari or Wilson Chandler, but not sure that the answer. Rudy Gay is available, but his fit is probably not ideal. Maybe the Nuggets, Celtics, and Thunder do a deal which would send Kanter to Boston, Kenneth Faried and Gary Harris to OKC, and Amir Johnson and the Thunder 2020 1st round pick, the Celtics 2018 1st round pick to the Nuggets as a framework for a trade.
The Nuggets probably say no, but I could see a Kanter trade at some point, although, I’d be hesitant to just move Kanter, unless you get an obvious upgrade (which would be the case in my opinion with Faried and Harris).
8 – Turn Over Ever Possible Stone to Potentially Find the Next Hassan Whiteside or Isaiah Thomas
Obviously this doesn’t happen very often, but 2nd round picks become stars, undrafted players become really good, and you can even find super stars at times. Here is a list of players that have gone under the radar to become some big time talents
Draymond Green, Khris Middleton, Hassan Whiteside, Allen Crabbe, Nikola Jokic, Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Wesley Matthews, Kent Bazemore.
The Thunder should continue to scour the D-League, Overseas Players, 2nd round picks, and players on the rosters of current NBA teams that are seemingly being overlooked. While I’m sure this is always being done, the Thunder now have the ability to really play and develop a player that fits into this category.