I've decided to do the hard work for the Oklahoma City Thunder front office and put together a plan for them to get this team into the NBA Playoffs and poised to make a serious run. Enjoy.
First of all, I'm tired of hearing about how the thunder are going to take Ricky Rubio with their first draft pick (No. 3 overall) this year. He is a great player, but Westbrook is not a shooter and does not play well off the ball. And before you go there, I really like Westbrook, and I think that the organization likes him too, so they are not going to give him up!
Westbrook is an excellent prospect and will get better over these next three years. He will improve from averaging 15 and five and develop into a serious contributor.
Jeff Green is also a solid player, and the Thunder know it; he should stay around. I see him as being an upper-tier role player with the ability to have a few standout games each season. He is one of the core pieces of this young group and will be around for years to come.
Kevin Durant is (do I even need to say it?)...amazing. He will eventually (in three to five years) develop into a superstar. I think eventually he will be among the NBA's elite (up there with Kobe, LeBron, and Wade) and lead this franchise to an championship.
That is, if he stays. His tenure with the Thunder is dependent on them getting another player (besides Westbrook and Green) to play at a high level.
And those three make up the part of the current starting lineup that will remain intact after the offseason moves I'm suggesting.
They clearly need a shooting guard who can play well off the ball; they must pick up a guy who has some scoring ability, as without another player who can put some points on the board Durant will get double-teamed more often and will eventually want out.
This year's free-agent class does not have a scorer that can play off the ball (at least not of the caliber of player we should be looking for), so signing a swingman would not be a viable option to find that piece to the lineup. On the other hand, James Harden (2009's top two guard in the draft) would be a great target.
As I said previously, without another dynamic scorer, Durant will leave. I repeat, "will leave."
The other position we need serious help at is center. Down low, we do not have the players needed to preform at a high level. The free-agent market for young centers who can average a double-double is shallow, so guys like David Lee are not out of the question. But that doesn't make him the best prospect; he wouldn't give us the best chance to win.
A better idea would be to sign Chris Bosh, assuming we are patient enough to wait until the 2010 offseason. He is young, like the rest of our group, and talented enough to average 22 and 10. If we lock him up long-term, he will be a valuable asset to this organization for years to come. Although he's on the short side for a pivot (6'10''), he more than makes up for that in his speed, athleticism, and basketball ability.
This is how I'm thinking the starting lineup will pan out:
PG: Westbrook (6'4'')
SG: Harden (6'5'')
SF: Durant (6'9'')
PF: Green (6'9'')
C: Bosh (6'10'')
If the Thunder get Bosh and draft Harden, they will be set to make a serious playoff run and hopefully will be able to keep Durant in the OKC jersey.
The bench could use some serious help; as we all know, without bench contributions, any team will flounder in the playoffs.
We should keep PG Shaun Livingston and SG Thabo Sefolosha, who are highly consistent and can contribute off the pine.
But Damien Wilkins and Robert Swift are among the not-producing players. Earl Watson is decent enough but is highly overpaid for the job he's been doing: He is owed $6 million this year and should stay for a pay cut or be terminated and replaced.
The free agent pool is fairly deep in the 2009 and 2010 summers, and I'm going to leave it up to you readers to tell me what free agent (or draft picks not including this year's to be used on Harden) you think will improve our performance. I'd also like to hear some feedback on what you guys would change improve on my article or what you're thinking about possible offseason moves.