OKC Thunder: Could Quiet Offseason Actually Work to Thunder's Advantage?
Many fans in sports hope or expect their favorite team to make a huge splash in the offseason.
If a big-name player isn't signed or drafted, disgruntled fans may declare it a bust.
But as is the case with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the best moves may be the ones that don't attract the spotlight.
The Thunder did not have any crucial roster changes that needed to be made after the 2011-12 season. A young team with tons of upside reached the NBA Finals and won the first game before the Miami Heat took over the series.
The dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook is locked up for quite some time. Nothing for Thunder Nation to worry about on that front. They also inked their premier shot-blocker, Serge Ibaka, to a four-year, $48 million contract last August.
Sixth Man of the Year James Harden is still looking for a well-deserved contract extension, and he has been quite vocal on the matter. According to ESPN's Chris Broussard, Harden said that he wants to stay in Oklahoma City but is seeking a max contract to do so.
Even with the Thunder's small salary cap, it is possible that his lofty salary request is met.
The biggest obstacle with meeting Harden's demands is Kendrick Perkins' contract.
Where will Oklahoma City end its 2013 campaign?
Perkins is due on average $9 million each season, but that issue is for Oklahoma City's front office to discuss, not for me to speculate on.
Otherwise, most of the non-starters will return, keeping the team that reached the finals pretty much intact. Just three players– Nazr Mohammed, Derek Fisher, and Royal Ivey– had expiring contracts and were let go by the Thunder.
Nick Collison, Daequan Cook, Eric Maynor, and Thabo Sefolosha all saw significant amounts of playing time in 2011-12 and will be back to help Oklahoma City next season.
Oklahoma City did take a chance on two well-known collegiate players with lackluster NBA careers in Hasheem Thabeet, the second overall pick in 2009 Draft, and second-year pro Daniel Orton from the University of Kentucky.
Guards DeAndre Liggins, Hollis Thompson and Andy Rautins will battle for a roster spot during the preseason.
The biggest move for the Thunder was in the draft. Perry Jones III slipped all the way to OKC's pick at No. 28 and brings with him a lot of intrigue.
At 6'11", Jones' athleticism will cause big mismatches on offense. Defensively, however, whether it be poor technique or lack of motivation, the rookie appears to need some major work (as displayed throughout his college career at Baylor).
If he could find that defensive mindset, he could guard the better scorers in the NBA man-to-man and use his size and quickness to Oklahoma City's extreme advantage.
This would take some pressure off of Durant and allow the superstar to be even more effective on offense—which should be a terrifying thought for the rest of the league.
The core of the Thunder and most of the role players return, so why shake things up in the offseason for the sole purpose of making useless noise?
There is no sense in messing with the already established team chemistry from top to bottom.
Oklahoma City's top four players in Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka and Harden are all one more year into their prime with another season of experience.
Thabo Sefolosha made a name for himself as a lockdown defender and Eric Maynor returns from an injury to back up Westbrook at the point.
With sky-high potential in their rookie and guys fighting for 11th and 12th man spots, OKC is in great position to repeat their successes in 2012-13.
It was all quiet on the Oklahoma City front this offseason.
And that is no problem at all.
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