Sunday, June 17, 2012

How Can I Help You? Oklahoma City Thunder

Durant and Westbrook want to win not one, not two, not three...
Like the Heat article I just wrote, the Thunder are still in the middle of their championship quest. A win tonight in Miami would go a long way. But as the playoffs have gone on, it's becoming more and more clear that the team that everyone thinks is perfect actually has some holes. They've made a living off of jump shooting and Kevindurantfourthquartercloseouts (Google it). OKC may want to add some depth to make them feel better about being the next dynasty.

First I'll start off by pointing out that the Thunder are losing two main players to free agency: Derek Fisher and Nazr Mohammed. Mohammed is no more than a backup to add size and he hasn't played much in the playoffs, so he's expendable. But Fisher has been a great leader for this team and has knocked down some clutch shots as Russell Westbrook's backup. The team will certainly miss the former Laker.

So here are the rotation players left for OKC from this current squad: Durant, Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha, and Nick Collison. Teams in the NBA are starting to use 8, 9, and even 10 man rotations. It's clear that the Thunder could use some depth.

After already mentioning the team's contributing players, I'll give a quick rundown of who is where and what they do.

Westbrook is the team's starting point guard and they don't have to draft a backup. Reggie Jackson was a first rounder last year and the team will surely try to get him more involved. Plus, Eric Maynor comes back from injury which will be a huge boost for Oklahoma City. Things look promising for the PG position next year as long as Maynor makes a healthy return and Jackson continues to develop. We already know Maynor can play serious minutes. The team is set at shooting guard too with a defensive specialist in Sefolosha and a high energy scorer in Harden. The Thunder have an incredibly young and talented backcourt That will certainly be a strength for them.

At small forward is Durant, of course. And his backup, Lazar Hayward, of course. Yeah, it's time to find a backup for KD. While he can play major minutes, there's no point in having him go the distance every game. Ibaka and Collison are the power forwards and Perkins is the center. Yes, these three are big bodies and very good on defense, but the scoring down low is almost non-existent (although Ibaka has gotten better on offense). OKC needs to add a big man who can score in the post.

So where are the holes again? Well, as long as everything at the point works out, the Thunder should draft either a backup for Durant or a scoring big man. Let's take a look.

Despite his low ceiling, it's hard not to like Green.
The small forward sweepstakes may be over by the time pick #28 comes around. Terrence Jones, Moe Harkless, Royce White, and Jeffery Taylor should all be gone by this pick. I had them being taken 23-26, but because this draft is so deep, they could go much higher. Khris Middleton from Texas A&M is still available, and at 6'8" he could be a solid scorer to play behind Durant. Then there's Quincy Miller of Baylor who has similar length and skills as Durant. Finally, Draymond Green could be a great piece for this team. In limited minutes, he can use contribute across the board. His leadership and toughness would be a nice addition to the Thunder.

It's going to be hard to find a scoring big man at this point in the draft. Festus Ezeli and Fab Melo have limited offensive abilities. Would the Thunder take a huge reach and draft someone like Virginia's Mike Scott? That's unlikely. If OKC decides to go big, they'll either trade up or trade down.

I think Green is the perfect pick here. He can help the team in a variety of areas. His lack of physical tools will be masked by the fact that he's playing behind Durant. And he's a high character guy who would fit right in with the Thunder. As for their issue of post scoring, they'll have to look in free agency. The team needs veteran leadership anyways, so maybe they can sign someone like Antawn Jamison or Elton Brand (to a smaller contract).

Here's what the Thunder should look like next season before free agency and after the draft:

PG: Westbrook, Maynor, Jackson
SG: Sefolosha, Harden
SF: Durant, Green
PF: Ibaka, Collison
C: Perkins

The depth and youth issues are still there, but there's only so much you can do with one draft pick. This team has a ton of potential, and they are headed in the right direction of winning multiple NBA titles.

Up next is the Chicago Bulls, who want Derrick Rose to get healthy and crash the Thunder-Heat party.

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