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We've Evaluated Everyone...Who Should Stay? Who Should Go?

So now that we have the end of season evaluations out of the way, who stays, and who goes? We're going to make our pitch as to who should be on the Thunder roster come the start of the 2009-10 season, who shouldn't be, and why. Throughout the post, you will see our SBN Player Cards, and if at any time you feel like reading our full evaluation of any player, simply click their SBN Player Card, and you will be whisked away to their End of Season Evaluation Post. Just like any other post we make, we hope to hear the voice of the fans loud and clear in our comments area, especially if you have a different take than we do, or if you agree, you can simply make a comment to sing the praises of how truly great we are at what we do here at WTLC....And never mind that I keep using the plural "we" as if there are more writers other than myself contributing to the blog. Hey, I have an ego to feed, and that's why you'll catch Mister P speaking about himself in the third person on this and other sites throughout the SBNation. Now if you'll excuse Mr Pappagiorgio, he has some writing to do.

If you want to read any players EOS Evalutation , just click on their player card.

Sbnpcrussellwestbrooksmall_medium Russell Westbrook is a guy that won't take long to decide whether or not he should be back with the team next season. Clearly, the #4 overall pick in the 2008 draft will return, likely as the teams starting point guard. There is only one scenario I see where he won't be playing the entire season as the starting point guard, and that's if the Thunder end up drafting Ricky Rubio. If that were to happen, I'd fully expect the Thunder to not waste any time getting him back to the shooting guard position, and if they want to bring Rubio off the bench for awhile before throwing him to the Wolves, they could use Shaun Livingston to start while they get Rubio ready to start on an everyday basis at the 1. 



Thabo Sefolosha is another no-brainer to return to the team, especially since the team just acquired him shortly before the trade deadline, and because of the tremendous impact he had during the latter part of the season. If the Thunder don't use the top pick in the draft on a guard during the upcoming June Draft, you can fully expect to see Thabo cemented in the starting lineup for the entire course of the season. Thabo brings a defensive intensity level that is just unmatched compared to anytime he's not on the floor. That reason alone, along with his team first attitude will keep him in the starting lineup for the entire season.



D.J. White will most certainly be brought back as well. The only question is, will he spend the majority of his time with the Thunder, or will he wind up playing a good portion of the season in D-League Tulsa, with the 66ers? If the Thunder are lucky enough to win the Blake Griffin Sweepstakes and take home that #1 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft Lottery, D.J.'s chances of making the opening day roster of the Thunder become less and less. The biggest reason for that is because he will only be a second year player, and as such can have his rights detained as he is designated for assignment with the Thunder D-League Affiliate, in our case, the 66ers, to get more playing time.



Nick Collison will be returning as the bench help at the Center/Power Forward position for sure. There is no question in my mind that he will be back. The tag team combination of Krstic/Collison proved to be a formidable combo at the Center position towards the end of the season. Collison provides that big body on the inside that doesn't mind playing the physical game and doling out some punishment, as well as the willingness to take some too. I fully expect Nick to stick around through the end of his contract before the Thunder make a move to replace him. Even if the Thunder were to get Thabeet in the draft, they could rotate Collison in between both the Power Forward and Center positions.



The Thunder liked what they saw out of Kyle Weaver during his rookie season, and even liked it enough to have him fill the gap at the starting shooting guard position after Desmond Mason went down, and before Thabo Sefolosha was brought in via trade. Late in the season however, the Thunder signed Shaun Livingston, and from that point on it seemed like Kyle Weaver was destined to spend more time in the D-League. He will remain in the system, either with the Thunder, or on assignment with the 66ers, but which squad he'll be a part of to start the year is hugely dependent upon other offseason moves that Presti makes in regards to the guard positions.



Chucky Atkins is a guy who's future with the team is up in the air. In all likelihood he'll be brought back for another season. Personally though, I'd much rather see Westbrook and Thabo starting, and have Livingston and Weaver coming off the bench as the main replacements at the guard position. At this point in his career, I really don't think that Atkins is going to give you much of anything that will have you crying for him to trot onto the court in replacement of Westbrook instead of Shaun Livingston. I don't know if it will happen, but I think they should go ahead and look to trade Chucky during the Summer.



So Malik Rose is another guy who was brought in shortly before the trade deadline. He is a Sam Presti type guy, a team first, good effort, positive attitude type player. But let's face it, his role on this team was getting Chris "Weezy" Wilcox off this team. Weezy was reportedly becoming somewhat of a cancer in the locker room, and if that term is a little harsh, perhaps it could be characterized as "Becoming a Distraction." Especially after the team traded him to New Orleans for Tyson Chandler along with Joe Smith before rescinding the trade because of a pre-existing turf toe injury. Outside of that, I don't see what role he has to play with this team going forward.



Obviously the team will want to bring back Nenad Krstic. Otherwise why jump on the gun on signing this guy in the middle of the season? Towards the end of the year we finally started to see some signs of why he was well on his way to becoming a quality NBA Center before he went down with an injury. Before joining the Thunder he was playing overseas, which is a very different style of game than the NBA, so it was to be expected that he wouldn't have mind blowing numbers this season. Next season however, watch out, they might not be mind blowing, but they should be much improved. I'm actually pretty stoked to see what he can do with a full offseason and entire season with the Thunder.



Shaun Livingston was brought in just before the end of the season, and impressed enough to earn a multi-year contract from the Thunder. However, that doesn't guarantee him a spot on the roster to start the year. The details were not disclosed but I'm sure Presti gave the team a number of outs should the team decide to move in a different direction. However, from the few times I saw him play with the Thunder, and during the time he spent in Tulsa, I saw a lot of positive things. First and foremost is before the ink dried on his contract, he became the teams best ball distributor. That's not a knock to Westbrook, being as he's still learning the point, but Livingston showed a tremendous ability to view the court and distribute the ball with efficiency and ease. If he can gain some confidence in that rebuilt knee, he could even end up being this teams point guard of the future, but lets not get ahead of ourselves.



Damien Wilkins has pretty much no reason to even be considered for sticking around Oklahoma City come next season. He underperformed all year, and doesn't have much of an upside or role with this team going forward. His numbers declined in all his major statistical categories and he spent far more time on the bench than he did on the court, and for good reason. Perhaps he'll be paired together with Earl Watson or Chucky Atkins during the offseason to create a more valuable package with two expiring contracts, instead of one. Whatever the case, I don't expect him to be on this roster next season. In fact, I'm even inclined to say his future right now is more leaning toward a stint in the D-League than another NBA Roster, but I imagine that time will tell. He does still have a year left on his contract, so he should be on someone's roster next season, but after that, he could be playing in a quiet arena near you.



Do we even need to talk about Jeff Green? Of course he'll be brought back. There is that one scenario out there that does beg the question, What happens to Jeff? That scenario is of course if the Thunder draft Blake Griffin. Will he be traded, will he work off the bench? What will happen? Personally, even if the Thunder draft Griffin, I think Green will continue to start for another season, and then be moved to the bench, but not for lack of production or talent, but for depth. In that situation, I think he could very easily become the most dangerous and highly regarded "6th Man" in the NBA. Can you imagine the Thunder roster progressing to the point where Jeff Green is coming off the bench? Yeah, that's when we start competing for NBA Titles.



So you're probably getting sick of me bashing on Earl Watson, but look, I only bash on him because he's been so disappointing. I don't think anyone expected him to be a Super productive starting point guard, but I don't think I'm out of line in saying that we didn't even get what we thought we would, at least for one more season, and that is sound veteran play and leadership. He spent the latter part of the season on the bench, and for me, that is proof enough that Mr Watson is on the first flight out of Oklahoma City as soon as Sam Presti starts working his trade magic. If that isn't proof enough, they also signed Shaun Livingston to a multi-year deal just weeks before the close of the season.



What can I say about Robert Swift other than the franchise has been more than patient giving the kid four years to develop out of high school and he's consistently been sidelined by injuries and had his toughness questioned. In addition to that, I questioned his passion for the game, because at times, he just looks like he's going through the motions and doesn't seem to want to be out there. Other times he does get out there and get after it, although I'm not what the reasons were to inspire him to do that. In any case, whatever those reasons where, they surely haven't figured out a way to consistently keep him motivated. It's also kind of hard to work on finding ways to motivate a player when he's constantly sidelined with injuries. The Thunder signed him to a 1 year deal before the season, essentially a last chance. I think you know where I am going with this.



Of all the players on the roster to close the season, Desmond Mason is perhaps the hardest guy to make an argument to bring back. First off, his contract has expired, and next, you've already replaced him with a younger and better defensive player. You have to wonder just what his role on this team would be if they were to bring him back. There is no question, however, that Desmond was the clear leader of this ballclub for the entire season, including the time after his injury. He was there each and every game rooting the guys on and being active during timeouts. Then of course you factor in his ties to Oklahoma, all he does in the community, and the fact that he is a fan favorite, and its hard to argue not bringing him back for another season. From the business side of things, it may be a tough sell, but if they can find a way to bring back D-Mase, they should, whether that happens or not is a different story.



I don't think there is any question that Kevin Durant will be back, so I'm going to take this paragraph to re-iterate just how important this cat is to the future and long term success of this team. Its a blessing to get a player of his caliber, and the Thunder need to do absolutely everything in their power to make sure that Kevin is the face of the franchise, not just now, but forever. When people look back 20 years from now on the history of the Thunder, they need to be talking about how this is Kevin Durant's team, and that he was the driving force in what became a dominant championship caliber team during the prime of his NBA Career. He's in the unique position of being that GREAT player for a new team, and won't have to compete with Ghosts of the franchises past. Kevin is the standard in which all Thunder players will be judged for many years to come.


So there you have it. Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic, Nick Collison, and Shaun Livingston are the guys I think you can go ahead and pencil in to the 2009 roster. D.J. White and Kyle Weaver are the two guys who will either be with the Thunder or 66ers to start the season, mostly dependant upon off season moves. Desmond Mason is the guy I think they should bring back, but may have found himself in a position where he just doesn't fit anywhere on the team anymore. Then finally Chucky Atkins, Earl Watson, Robert Swift, Damien Wilkins, and Malik Rose should all be moved during the off season. Obviously Sam Presti has his own plan, but it will be fun to see if his thoughts are anywhere close to mine at this point. What are your thoughts? There is no better time than now to become a member and start posting your own thoughts, starting with comments in this post. Go ahead, tell me what you think!