Ranking OKC Thunder's Most Believable 2014 NBA Free-Agency Rumors
The start of NBA free agency wasn’t as crazy as we’ve come to expect, but there are still rumors swirling about every team’s plans—and the Oklahoma City Thunder aren’t immune to that kind of water cooler talk.
Four players have been consistently mentioned as targets of general manager Sam Presti, and those are the free agents discussed in this slideshow.
The players are presented in order from least to most believable, with analysis explaining their potential roles on the Thunder.
Least Believable: Sebastian Telfair
Telfair would step into the shoes of Derek Fisher as the team’s third point guard, but he doesn’t seem like a good fit for the roster—hence his low ranking on the list.
For starters, Telfair spent last season plying his trade in China. He played relatively well for the Tianjin Ronggang, ending the season averaging 26.1 points (eighth in CBA) and 6.0 assists (fourth-best), but it’s hard to place any value on those numbers given the competition he faced on a nightly basis.
Additionally, there’s a reason he wasn’t in the NBA last season. Telfair never delivered on the ridiculous hype that enveloped him coming out of high school, and he’s bounced around in the way of seven teams in his nine NBA seasons.
Is there any reason to believe that Telfair has changed as a player? Not to my knowledge.
And if he hasn’t changed, he doesn’t fit what the Thunder need. Firstly, he needs the ball in his hands, and that’s not going to happen in OKC, where Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson will certainly be above him on the totem pole.
If he doesn’t have the ball in his hands, he doesn’t bring much value to the table since he’s not a strong perimeter shooter (32 percent from downtown over his career).
OKC needs a third point guard. They don’t need a third PG who can’t shoot, can’t defend his position particularly well and can’t play off the ball.
This rumor is believable in the sense that Telfair will command the lowest salary of the bunch, but let's hope it doesn't materialize because that money could be spent elsewhere.
Landing Pau Gasol would be a coup for Presti and the Thunder. He may be getting older, but his game was never rooted in athleticism, and he can still provide quality low-post offense, great passing and a very high basketball IQ (and regular IQ, for that matter: Gasol was preparing to be a doctor before realizing his dream of playing in the NBA).
He shoots the ball well enough that spacing wouldn’t be an issue, and he’s an underrated defender when he’s motivated.
Gasol has stated on numerous occasions that playing for a title contender is the greatest motivation for his free-agency decision (over salary), so OKC should be high on his list.
In basketball terms, Gasol would be a great addition for the Thunder. So why is this a rumor you shouldn’t get too attached to?
Because ESPN’s Marc Stein reiterated in his notes from Day 1 of free agency that sources close to Gasol are adamant that OKC is an unlikely destination for him despite the reported links.
It's unclear why exactly Gasol's camp isn't fond of a potential move to OKC, but this rumor getting shot down so quickly doesn't bode well for its chances of coming true.
According to Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports, OKC is one of the teams with interest in Rashard Lewis.
The skill the Thunder need most is shooting, and Lewis can certainly provide that. He’s a 39 percent three-point shooter over his career, and the veteran came alive at moments for the Miami Heat in the playoffs.
More importantly, he showed a willingness to expend effort defending power forwards.
He didn’t do an excellent job of this, but he knew his place in Miami’s defense and was effective against bigger post players.
That’s an intriguing tidbit because it would allow head coach Scott Brooks to go “small” with Durant and Lewis manning the forward spots while saving Durant the wear and tear of trying to defend 4s.
As a fallback option, the Thunder could do worse than Lewis, but it’s important to recognize that he’s not the same long-range marksman that he used to be. Like every other Heat player, Lewis went through cold spells in the playoffs, and he shot 34 percent from beyond the arc for the 2013-14 season.
Most Believable: Vince Carter
A 37-year-old Vince Carter becoming a valuable role player on a title contender seemed like a ridiculous proposition earlier in his career. Nevertheless, Carter has actually aged very well.
He’s become a mature and respected leader in the locker room, and he’s been more active defensively while maintaining his prowess as a gunner from beyond the three-point line.
Carter has knocked down 40 percent of his treys over the last two seasons, and he would be a nice option to replace Caron Butler as a backup shooting guard.
OKC still needs to figure out who is going to start at the position, and Carter is capable of handling that role, but he’s best suited as a reserve at this point of his career.
He won’t command too much money, and his combination of leadership and perimeter shooting (plus his ability to create some of his own offense off the dribble) makes him a nice fit in OKC—and definitely the most credible of the four rumors that made up this slideshow.