Ranking the OKC Thunder's Offseason Acquisitions
The offseason is sometimes referred to as the NBA’s “silly season” because of its chaotic nature. For contenders like the Oklahoma City Thunder, however, the offseason usually passes without much silliness. The roster was, for the most part, set heading into the summer, and only a few pieces were needed here and there to prepare for the 2014-15 season.
OKC’s roster manipulations may not hijack the internet, but every move is important for a team attempting to finally reach the summit of the NBA landscape. Five new players will call the Chesapeake Energy Arena home, and those acquisitions will be ranked here in terms of how important they will be this season.
Bringing up the rear are rookies like Josh Huestis and Semaj Christon. The D-League will be their opportunity to mature, and neither player is expected to contribute anything to the Thunder this season.
After them, there are three players who figure to carve out roles in head coach Scott Brooks’ rotation. Sebastian Telfair’s role will be relatively minor, but Mitch McGary and Anthony Morrow possess skill sets that have a significant place in the Thunder’s title aspirations.
5. Josh Huestis, G/F
The peculiar nature of Josh Huestis’ journey to OKC was well-documented by Grantland’s Zach Lowe. The Thunder struck a deal whereby the rookie would spend the season in the D-League and the team would gain some extra short-term financial flexibility.
While it is a good deal for both sides, it means that Huestis will definitely not receive a call to play with the first team—hence his spot at the bottom of these rankings.
As a prospect, Huestis brings an interesting skill set to the table. With a 7’1” wingspan and some proven defensive chops at Stanford, Huestis projects to become OKC’s long-term replacement for Thabo Sefolosha.
He’ll compete with Andre Roberson for that role, but Huestis possesses a better perimeter stroke than Roberson.
The overall upside is limited, but Huestis has the tools to become an excellent wing defender in the NBA. It’s just not happening this year.
4. Semaj Christon, PG
Semaj Christon ranks ahead of Josh Huestis for two reasons. Firstly, there is a tiny chance that Christon impresses enough to work his way up to the NBA, whereas Huestis is locked into the D-League.
Additionally, Christon has higher upside in terms of absolute talent. He’s a long-armed guard with the ball-handling skills to run the show and the aggressive mentality to rack up points at the next level.
It’s no coincidence that general manager Sam Presti traded for the rights to Christon just as Reggie Jackson is set to hit the market. Jackson was the better prospect coming out of Boston College, but there are clear similarities between the two.
If Christon can hone his three-point jumper and improve his decision making (both of which are easier typed than done), he could be a nice long-term backup plan in the likely event that Jackson receives a very lucrative contract offer from another team next offseason.
3. Sebastian Telfair, PG
Now we get to the players that will actually receive meaningful minutes for OKC this season. Sebastian Telfair is making his NBA comeback after spending a year in the Chinese Basketball Association with the Tianjin Ronggang Golden Lions and will have to adjust to a smaller role than he is used to.
Telfair’s spot in the rotation is still subject to change depending on whether Coach Brooks opts to start the two-headed monster of Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson in the backcourt. Nevertheless, he’ll be filling Derek Fisher’s shoes as the third-string point guard and a veteran leader off the bench.
He may be a reliable third option, but it’s unlikely he seizes a bigger role than that. He doesn’t provide the same quality of three-point shooting that Fisher did—a fairly serious problem for a team that desperately needs more floor-spacing.
The Coney Island product is a solid backup, but he won’t move the needle for the Thunder in any significant manner.
2. Mitch McGary, F/C
Coach Brooks has previously shown hesitation when it comes to doling out regular-season minutes to young players, but Mitch McGary may force his hand if he can continue the level of production he showed in the Orlando Summer League.
The Michigan big man looked completely healthy—a welcome sign after an injury-plagued sophomore campaign—and showed a promising all-around game.
Defensively, his activity was contagious and he had the size to hold his own in the paint. He was even more impressive on the offensive end, showcasing a nice touch around the rim, decent range on his shot and beautiful vision when it came to finding his teammates with on-point passes.
McGary may never develop into a refined low-post scorer, but he’s already an effective energy big off the bench. Minutes may be hard to come by this season with the likes of Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Steven Adams and Nick Collison ahead of him on the depth chart, but McGary’s presence will be felt whenever he does get on the floor.
Against quicker teams, his athleticism and energy will be a welcome change from the plodding Perkins. He looks like an instant long-term replacement for Collison (whose contract expires at the end of the season).
1. Anthony Morrow
Anthony Morrow may not generate headlines like Pau Gasol, but don’t sleep on the effect the sharpshooter will have on this offense. He may be a one-trick pony, but he’s a pony that is exceptionally good at that trick.
In fact, he may just be the best spot-up shooter the Thunder have ever had on their roster (and that’s including Kevin Durant).
OKC’s ball movement and floor-spacing were inconsistent last season and fell apart in the playoffs. Coach Brooks’ offensive “scheme” played a part in that, but the primary reason a team with two of the game’s most dynamic scorers came up short on the offensive end was the lack of three-point shooting.
Defenses were free to focus 100 percent of their attention on Durant and Westbrook, comforted by the fact that Thabo Sefolosha would be hoisting up bricks if the ball-handler found the open man.
That won’t be the case this season, at least when Morrow’s on the floor. Coach Brooks will need to figure out which rotation gives the Thunder the best blend of offense and defense, but we are sure to witness some offensively explosive lineup combinations with Morrow sharing the court with Durant and Westbrook (and maybe even Jackson in small-ball lineups).