Faced with steep Luxury Tax penalties or an immediate rebuild, the Oklahoma City Thunder approach unenviable territory this off-season.
While extending Russell Westbrook to an exclusive 5-year 207 M deal tops GM Sam Presti’s summer priority list, the massive upcoming contract spikes of Victor Oladipo (due $21.0 M) & Steven Adams ($22.5 M) hamstring non-taxed roster improvement.
Further complicating matters: two-fifths of Oklahoma City’s 16-17’ starting lineup enter free-agency July 1.
Along with unrestricted FA Taj Gibson, defensive standout Andre Roberson will test his restricted market value and await Presti’s decision to match or decline.
Aware of OKC’s financials, a handful of teams are expected to bid Roberson slightly-elevated offer sheets while attempting to dissuade OKC from retaining his services.
If, however, Presti opts to keep Roberson, defensive laurels aside, some will question why a 47-win team would push its foreseeable cap flexibility into a deeper bind to retain a player averaging 6.6 PPG, 30.1 MPG, and 24/42% 3PM/FT% in today’s NBA climate.
Conversely, with no end to Golden State’s looming dynasty ahead, should Andre Roberson receive a proposal that Presti refuses to match, how then will Oklahoma City fill his vacancy?
If Roberson isn't matched this summer, who starts at SF? Mcbuckets grant or huestis time? Or do thunder play the odds and draft replacement?— Jeff Kelsey (@JKman08) June 7, 2017
While drafting a late first-round replacement is unlikely, we will instead focus on internal promotion as a means of moving forward at the three.
Each of these candidates offer distinct pro’s and cons which will now be assessed.
- Jerami Grant (Team option 17-18’)
It must be prefaced that Grant currently awaits decision from OKC regarding his team-option for the upcoming season. Though, if he re-signs low, Grant likely holds the inside track to filling Roberson’s potential void.
While registering 78 contests last season, Grant made four starts and averaged 5.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, and 1 BPG on 46/37/61 shooting.
And though Grant struggled defensively (108.2 DefRtg), of the three incumbents, the 23-year-old’s emerging skillset, experience with Oklahoma City’s openers, and upside make him the logical substitute choice.
- Doug McDermott
Approaching his 6th NBA season, McDermott is what he is at this point: An efficient outside shooter, with poor lateral movement which impedes his overall defensive abilities.
Since joining the Thunder, offensively, McDermott totals 6.6 PPG in 19.5 MPG while shooting a respectable 45/36/70 split.
If Grant isn’t re-signed, odds are that McDermott will become Oklahoma City’s De facto opening small forward.
- Josh Huestis
Impressive in meager playing time for OKC, Huestis represents the great unknown. While much of Thunder Nation is intrigued by Huestis’ length, and upside, it is, however, unlikely for a player who logged just 31 minutes the season prior to command such an integral role.
While numerous personnel scenarios could manifest over the summer, most believe Roberson and OKC will reach a deal palatable to both sides. If, though, this isn’t the case, look for cost-effective replacements Grant or McDermott to enjoy Robes’ vacated mantle.