Are OKC Thunder Getting Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook the Help They Need?

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Are OKC Thunder Getting Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook the Help They Need?
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The Oklahoma City Thunder will enter next season with an improved roster, but even with the addition of Anthony Morrow, is Oklahoma City doing all it can to get better?

The Thunder offense lacked shooting from the outside last year. Kevin Durant, obviously, is a dead-on three-point shooter, but after him, who did the Thunder have?

Caron Butler? Thabo Sefolosha in a down year? Reggie Jackson, who would go hot and cold without warning? 

There wasn't a consistent three-point threat on the roster, someone who defenses were horrified to help off in any situation in which Westbrook or Durant would barrel into the lane—though Butler did shoot accurately during his limited time in Oklahoma City. Because of that, the Thunder didn't exactly get preferable shots.

OKC finished in the middle of the pack in corner-three attempts and 28th in corner-three percentage. It took just the 14th-most shots in the restricted area, which may sound perfectly respectable for an offense, but it has to be re-evaluated when you realize you're talking about an attack that employs Durant, Jackson and Russell Westbrook.

So, an offense that went stagnant at times with isolation and mid-range jumpers went out and got a shooter.

The Morrow signing makes perfect sense given the OKC offense. The Thunder needed a knockdown shooter. Well, now they have one.

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Morrow splashed in 45.1 percent of his threes as a Pelican last year. He's a 42.8 percent shooter from long range in his career. Meanwhile, he knocked down a bulbous 46.1 percent of his three-point attempts from the corners this past season. There's your floor spacer.

Still, Oklahoma City could use a little more. OKC has been averse to hitting the tax, and even with the organization pushing up against the luxury threshold, it still neglected to amnesty Kendrick Perkins and pay him not to play for the Thunder, a theme each offseason for a team that doesn't prefer "unnecessary" expenses.

So, OKC moves on with Morrow, a perfectly helpful addition, but not one who pushes the needle all that much, considering his low usage and imperfect defense.

Now, it's a little too late to make more moves without many notable players remaining on the market. But we can still look back a little, even if hindsight is 20/20, and try to figure what Oklahoma City could've done. 

Even if the Thunder didn't want to amnesty Perkins, a trade could've happened. Look at how low the market is for shooting guards right now, a desperate need for OKC, especially before the Morrow signing. 

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Arron Afflalo, an almost-All-Star this past season, went for the 56th pick in the draft and Evan Fournier. And he's an excellent, low-usage, off-the-ball shooter who can play defense competently. Why couldn't Perkins' expiring contract and Jeremy Lamb have netted OKC another top-notch talent to add to the starting lineup (possibly with one of the Thunder's two first-rounders getting tossed in there)?

The lack of aggression from the front office doesn't lack a complete base, though.

Clearly, this team can win right now. If Serge Ibaka hadn't gotten hurt in last season's Western Conference Finals, maybe we'd be talking about the Thunder instead of the San Antonio Spurs as the world champions. In some ways, OKC's success has more to do with health, execution and playing time than it does with the roster.

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If Oklahoma City added more motion in its offense, we may not have seen as much stagnancy in its playoff attack.

The Thunder could run more 3-4 pick-and-roll with Durant and Ibaka, but they don't. They could let Westbrook, an underrated cutter, play off the ball more and set him up for back-cuts as Durant and Jackson dribble off screens, but they don't. And it's hard to say if that's an organizational or coaching decision.

OKC hasn't developed its guys the right way all the time. Lamb, for example, mostly handled the ball during his short stint in the NBA D-League, but that's not what the at-the-time rookie should've been practicing. Lamb needed to be working on his movement off the ball—running off screens and the like.

Instead, he played a role he already had some familiarity filling, and when the Thunder needed to go to him as a floor spacer and spot-up shooter in the postseason when Sefolosha struggled, they couldn't consider him a dependable option.

So, it's safe to say OKC wouldn't have to be so aggressive if it just honed its own talent a little better. But for now, the roster that returns isn't all that different from the one it had last year, though the floor spacing Morrow can provide will certainly help.

 

Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade, but he maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at RotoWire.com, WashingtonPost.com or on ESPN'TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are current as of July 19 and courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.  

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