The Oklahoma City Thunder have been one of the NBA’s best teams for a few years now. However, whether or not they can win a title without a traditional low-post scorer is still a question that many are asking around the league.
While there are many commentators who will tell you that having that low-post threat is vital to winning a championship, they are wrong. This Thunder team can win one without adding such a player.
The reasons are simple. The cost would be too much and too risky for the chemistry and makeup of the team. As other teams have proven, having such a “traditional” player is not a necessity for winning an NBA championship. Plus, the Thunder already have players that could be nurtured into filling this role for the team.
The most important reason why the Thunder should avoid pushing to add a low-post player at the trade deadline is the cost.
The best low-post player that appears available for a trade is Anderson Varejao of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Even if we ignore the fact that he is hurt right now, there is still the issue of what he would cost.
At the very least, the Thunder would have to give up the draft picks from the James Harden trade, one of which will likely be a top-10 pick. That would likely be in addition to a couple of bench players.
That cost is just too great. While there are probably cheaper options out there, none of them would be cheap enough to make it worth the trade for the Thunder. Oklahoma City’s bench has struggled this season as young players develop, and having to give up a chunk of that developing bench is not the right move to make the team better.
Can Win Without It
The push for this team to add the supposedly “missing” piece is overlooking a key piece of evidence as to why it should not do that.
The Thunder have won more games than almost any other team in the NBA over the past few seasons. They have done it by developing the players they have and building around their two young superstars, Durant and Westbrook.
One thing they have avoided is making rash trades to improve a team that is already on top of the NBA.
The only example of a possibly rash trade was when the team sent Jeff Green to Boston for Kendrick Perkins. That trade has benefited the Thunder ever since, particularly when it came to beating the Los Angeles Lakers, who were the bullies on the block at that time.
Other than that, the trades the team has made have been based on continuing to build a championship contender with salary cap flexibility.
Commentators like Charles Barkley can talk all day long about how this Thunder team will never win a title without a true low-post scorer. The facts are that they made it to the 2012 Finals without the prototypical post man, and their loss in those finals to Miami had nothing to do with that lack.
The Thunder lost to Miami because they were younger, had less experience and did not play good enough defensively. It had nothing to do with the lack of a low-post threat.
Right now, the Thunder are still the best team in the Western Conference and the favorite to return to the NBA Finals. Why would you potentially mess that up by adding a piece that you haven’t needed?
Can Find It On Current Roster
In actuality, the Thunder can solve this supposed “low-post” problem on their own. Many of the players that are currently on the roster can fill this void, albeit unorthodoxly.
The Thunder can do similar things with Durant, and probably even just as much with Westbrook.
Durant has improved his low-post game quite a bit over the last few years. He has elite size and the speed to pull his man out to the perimeter if he has an edge there as well.
Westbrook is not quite as good in the low post, but his size and strength at his position could be utilized there, particularly against the smaller point guards in the league. Drawing double teams in the post and dishing or simply finishing with a score are things either of them can do.
Granted, you really do not want your best players down in the post all that often when they are primarily perimeter players. That is why Serge Ibaka has to be the guy who develops into this player for Oklahoma City.
He is not there yet, but he does have the ability to become a great low-post threat. We have already seen how much he can improve in a season, as he is currently one of the most improved players from 2012 to 2013.
Do the Thunder need to trade for a low-post threat at the trade deadline?
The fact that he was able to add a very dependable outside jumper in just a season is evidence of how hard he is willing to work to improve. The Thunder coaching staff should have him working on this too. If he can master it, the Thunder would be even better.
Ultimately though, this team is good enough to win a title without the type of player many say they need. Durant and Westbrook drive at the rim all the time, and their abilities at finishing and hitting free throws more than account for the lack of a low-post scorer.
There is no way this team should make a trade at the deadline for a post player. They do not need it, they can cultivate on their own roster more cheaply and the cost and risk would just be too great.