Oklahoma City Thunder's Ideal 2013 NBA Draft and Free-Agency Plan
The Oklahoma City Thunder are at "that" point in their development. They have the young stars, they have great guys to fill out the starting card, they have proven bench role players and they even have young stars. All they need to do is add the finishing pieces to their roster, and we could all be looking at a dynasty.
This, of course, means that the Thunder do not have a lot of pressing needs on their roster. They do need to get a replacement starting centre for Kendrick Perkins, and it would be ideal to add another few good bench players.
Step 1: Amnesty Kendrick Perkins
I was one of the guys who loved Kendrick Perkins when he was shipped into Oklahoma. I thought he brought a lot of toughness and intangibles to the happy-go-lucky Thunder squad of 2011.
However, it is now 2013, and the young guns of 2011 have turned into seasoned pro's with already one finals loss under their belts. Therefore, the intangibles that he is still bringing to the table are no longer important enough to justify his $9 million-per-year contract.
Therefore, he is the logical option for the Thunder to use their amnesty on. By getting rid of his contract this offseason, Oklahoma City would give itself enough cap room to make some significant moves to improve the team.
So, as much as I like Perkins as a person, his play is not worthy of that sort of money.
2013 NBA Draft, Pick 12: Steven Adams (C), Pittsburgh
This has always been my favorite fit for the Thunder's 12th overall pick, and not just because he's a Kiwi like me. I have always described Steven Adams as a Tyson Chandler-type prospect, and if he can develop in that regard, then he will be a very, very valuable starter for the Thunder.
First, the negatives. Adams is as raw as they come, and he may not play a single minute in his rookie season. He needs to develop his basketball IQ, technique and shooting touch, and he also said that he was unused to facing players as tall and strong as him.
Given that there is a huge leap in size and especially strength for big men from college to the NBA, he will likely struggle again.
However, while these flaws should let him drift to the 12th pick due to his bust potential, there is a whole lot to like about his game. Adams is an elite athlete with to-die-for length, bulk, strength and leaping ability.
He is also very good defensively for an inexperienced player. He can block shots and rebound and is quick enough to hedge on pick-and-rolls yet still be in position to defend the rim.
Adams also showed the potential to be a good mid-range jump shooter at the NBA combine, and his physical gifts should make him a good finisher at the rim. In short, he could be a great player and also a great fit for Oklahoma City.
While the Thunder are in win-now mode, there is no-one likely to be available for the 12th pick of the draft who can make the team better right away. In the long run though, Adams can become a defensive anchor who can rebound and be productive offensively without needing the ball in his hands.
Pick 29: Reggie Bullock (SF), North Carolina
While I believe that the Thunder should be open to trading this pick to make sure they get the right big man with their first first-rounder, if Adams does fall to them, then they will obviously keep this pick.
And if this happens (which I think it should), then I think they should look at adding Reggie Bullock from North Carolina. While he may not have huge potential, he is a high-floor player with a very valuable skill set.
Bullock is a shooter with the size to play small forward and great rebounding skills. While he is not an isolation player, he is a high-percentage shooter from deep who is also a very effective transition finisher.
After all, of all the small forwards in this draft, he scores the most points per possession on spot-up shots, and he is top five as a transition finisher. This meshes very well with a Thunder offense that likes to take threes and run the break.
Bullock is also a very good rebounder for his position, and he is a good enough athlete to make him a good defender as both a small forward and shooting guard. All in all, he is the quintessential "3DA" role player. He can shoot threes, play defense and has athleticism.
I see him developing into a guy like Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls, and because of his age and maturity, he should be able to become a good bench threat in his rookie season.
Pick 32: Nate Wolters (PG), South Dakota State
With their third pick of the draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder will probably look for a backup point guard. Firstly, they are unlikely to rely on Derek Fisher any longer, and with Reggie Jackson showing promise as a combo guard, a pass-first guy would also be valuable.
Additionally, there may well be a surplus of talented floor generals available at the start of the first round. Nate Wolters is the pick of the bunch though.
Wolters has been compared to Steve Nash a lot, but this of course is quite an exaggeration. While Wolters, like Nash, is not a good athlete, he is a brilliant ball-handler, passer and jump shooter.
He has the ability to lead an offense and create off the dribble, he can run the pick-and-roll and his shooting ability makes him a potential shooting guard as well since he stands 6'5".
While Wolters would not see much game time for the Thunder for most of his career, he is the sort of player who could be very good at the NBA level. And, if his lack of athleticism and defense makes him too much of a liability, then he can be cut at no waste since a second-round pick comes with no guaranteed contract.
2013 Free Agency: The (Kevin Martin) Decision
Of all the outgoing Thunder free agents this offseason, Kevin Martin is the only one who is an interesting decision.
Daniel Orton, Hollis Thompson, Derek Fisher, Ronnie Brewer and Andy Rautins would all figure to be out the door or back for minimum contracts. However, Martin could demand a pretty penny in free agency, and unlike the others, he actually saw minutes last season for the Thunder as their sixth man.
With this in mind, re-signing him becomes a big question this offseason. With the cap space opened up by amnestying Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder could happily offer Martin a $6 million contract and rely on a home-team discount and championship pedigree to make him overlook some larger offers from lesser teams.
However, there is a serious question of whether Martin is actually the best fit for this Thunder roster.
While Martin is a smooth long-range shooter who is an elite catch-and-shoot option, his playoffs were just awful, and he was a big reason why the Thunder could not battle past the Memphis Grizzlies despite Durant's heroics.
Martin shot 38 percent from the field and 37 percent from range over 11 games, and he never looked comfortable. Also, there is the lingering problem that Martin is one of the worst defenders at his position in the league, and this only stands to get worse as he marches further from his 30th birthday.
He has also never been a very good passer or rebounder, and his ability to create off the dribble declined drastically in Oklahoma City. In short, he really only offers one skill to the team, and for a $6 million contract that he will likely be looking for, that seems a rip-off for general manager Sam Presti.
Therefore, I would be all for the Thunder not bringing Martin back. There are some other interesting replacements on the open market who have a more versatile game, are younger and who would probably cost no more.
Also, by letting go of Martin, the Thunder would maintain their cap space, which by my calculations would give them $15.75 million under the luxury tax cap when including the mid-level exception and bi-annual exception. This is enough to make some waves in free agency.
Free Agency: Sign Carl Landry (PF)
Assuming that the offseason plays out like I have predicted, Oklahoma City will have lots to spend on free agents.
While one option would be to drop it all on a star like Andre Iguodala, that would eat up all of the Thunder's cap space and potentially dump them into the tax bracket depending on future contracts (or if my math is slightly off).
Therefore, I think the better option is to add a couple of very productive bench players who can provide great production when the starters are on the pine and help account for the minutes lost by letting go Perkins and Martin.
The first guy to sign would be Carl Landry, who opted out of a two-year player option with the Golden State Warriors that would have paid him $8 million. Landry was actually drafted by the Thunder back in the 2007 second round. In the intervening years, he has turned himself into a very good power forward who has the skill set to add another dimension to the Thunder.
Landry has established his NBA role, and that role is of a very good offensive bench big. He has a nice face-up game and mid-range jumper, can finish the pick-and-roll and is a good offensive rebounder.
While these are all nice for the Thunder, it is his post game that would make this a valuable pick-up. Oklahoma City does not have anything resembling a post scorer, and Landry is a very solid one who uses his shooting touch and quickness to get good looks and points inside. On the Thunder bench unit, his ability to create easy buckets would help maintain leads.
The new-age numbers certainly support this. Landry score 0.88 points per possession (PPP) on post-up plays in 2012-13, as well as 0.95 PPP on pick-and-rolls and 0.87 PPP on spot-up shots. These numbers are all fairly good, especially those related to his post scoring.
He also had the 46th best offensive rebounding percentage among people who played more than 400 minutes, according to Basketball-Reference.
The risk with this signing is, as with all undersized power forwards, on the defensive end. He can struggle to defend quick stretch-4's and big physical grinders like Zach Randolph, and his lack of length causes struggles dealing with mid-range shooters.
His post defense is acceptable, but if he is forced to move to guard players, they can often work past him. Also, he is extremely weak against mid-range shooters.
However, I would say that on a bench unit his defensive limitations are more than made up for by his offensive efficiency. He can score with ease against backup forwards and centers, and he has the ability to reel in offensive rebounds. Both these skills are lacking at Oklahoma City and were shown to be very valuable in beating the Miami Heat in the Indiana Pacers series.
The big question with Landry is his contract. He opted out of a $4 million-a-year deal with a playoff team, so he obviously appears to want more money than that.
However, the Thunder are a cut above the Warriors in talent, and for that reason I believe a three-year deal paying $5.5 million a year would be able to snap him up without forcing the Thunder to pay him for too many seasons beyond his prime, if any.
If the Thunder miss out on Landry, they could also look to a player like the former Spur DeJuan Blair as a post-scoring rebounder to play off the bench.
While Blair is really more of a centre because of his plodding nature, and because of his real defensive issues due to his lack of height and quickness, as a bench player he could provide similar things to the Thunder as Landry, just at a lesser level and pay bracket.
Free Agency: J.J. Redick (SG)
The second significant move I would make is to bring in J.J. Redick to replace Kevin Martin. While the perception of Redick is very similar to Martin, he is in fact much more versatile.
While he came into the league as a spot-up three-point shooter only, over his years at Orlando he turned himself into a solid ball-handler, passer and defender. This versatility allows him to be effective plugged into a starting lineup where his defense and spacing allows him to contribute without affecting the flow and also contribute as a sixth man with his ability to make shots and run the pick-and-roll.
Once again, the new-age statistics paint Redick in a very positive light. Note that these are only from his games with the Orlando Magic last season, since he was used in a different way with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Last year before his trade, he was the 12th most efficient spot-up shooter in the entire league, and he was also 23rd in scoring off cuts and 31st most efficient coming off screens.
Defensively, he also held his opponent to PER of 14.3, which is slightly below the league average of 15, which shows that he can hold his own defensively (much like James Harden did).
Also, it appears that Redick is interested in leaving Milwaukee, according to CBS Sports. This means that the first hurdle to signing Redick is already achieved, and with the attractiveness of playing for an elite team in Oklahoma City in a role similar to his in Orlando, the cards seem in the Thunder's favour.
The big question is whether Redick is after money or a ring. He was paid $6 million last season, and if he wants a pay raise, then the Thunder are unlikely to shell out for him.
However, given that Redick will be 29 at the start of the next season, he may have reached that point in his career where the ring is more important than the extra $2 million a season.
With this in mind, I would expect Sam Presti to offer Redick a four-year deal that pays $6 million a season. However, if they could not woo Redick, there are still other options, albeit generally with less all-around skill.
The next best thing would probably be Kyle Korver, who the Thunder could probably sign to a two-year deal for $4 million a year. While he lacks the playmaking skills of Redick, Korver is still one of the premier three-point marksmen in the NBA, and he is a sticky defender to boot.
While the Thunder would want to make other moves to fill out their roster, the reality is that most of those players will not see any significant minutes and are therefore chosen more for their developmental potential, their positive impact on team chemistry or mentoring young players.
Since there is really no way for an outsider like me to know about this sort of stuff or who will be available for cheap-year contracts, I will not bother trying to predict these.
Anyway, here is the projected starting lineup and second unit for my ideal offseason. Please comment if you feel I should have done something different.
C: Nick Collison/Hasheem Thabeet
PF: Serge Ibaka/Carl Landry
SF: Kevin Durant/Reggie Bullock
SG: Thabo Sefolosha/J.J. Redick
PG: Russell Westbrook/Reggie Jackson
Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones may also get some good minutes if they perform well in the preseason.