In a star-laden Western Conference, Sam Presti's bold summer moves place the Oklahoma City Thunder back among select competition.
The following is a chronological review detailing each post-draft Thunder transaction this offseason.
June 30: Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis traded to Indiana for Paul George
Contemplating another round of painstaking labors, NBA MVP Russell Westbrook sought change. In reply, OKC acquired four-time All-Star Paul George’s expiring contract via an abrupt three-player trade.
The cost: Victor Olaidpo’s inflated $21 M annual salary, and prospect Domantas Sabonis. However, if George becomes a one-year rental, deeper ramifications lie ahead for Oklahoma City.
That stated, the level of risk-reward assumed by Presti indicates his willingness to compete now while pushing to re-sign Westbrook using the designated five-year supermax.
Meanwhile, aware of all viable scenarios next summer, the Thunder still gains a full-season of exclusive on-job recruitment pitches to aim at George.
During his final run with Indiana, George averaged just under 24 ppg and made 200 3PA. At 6’9 and versatile, many feel George’s skill set ideally compliments Westbrook’s offensive strengths, while re-establishing Oklahoma City as a top-shelf competitive entity.
For a franchise with little to lose —other than Westbrook— pre June 30, this brash deal at minimum creates a glimmer of hope concerning Oklahoma City’s post-2018 future.
Patrick Patterson signs 3-year, $16.4 M deal with Oklahoma City Thunder on July 4
After losing 16-17’ starting power forwards Sabonis and Taj Gibson, the latter to division-rival Minnesota, Sam Presti orchestrated an all-around coup by signing stretch-four Patrick Patterson.
Already gathering luxury-tax fines, the astute GM used his taxpayer exception as a means of upgrading OKC’s spacing, defense, and roster cohesion by persuading Patterson into Oklahoma City’s restored fray.
The ex-Toronto standout’s 305 made three-pointers since 2014 uplifts a Thunder squad ranked last in efficiency from beyond the arc.
Equally as important, “2Pat” brings consistent defensive effort. When shared among like-minded teammates, this quality should place Oklahoma City among the NBA’s point-limiting elite.
Last season, while making 94 3PA, Patterson shot 41% from the short-corners. However, plus/minus is where Oklahoma City’s newest free-agent frontcourt addition shines.
Raptors with Patterson on the floor over the last 3 seasons: +1004— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) July 5, 2017
An established NBA veteran at 27-years-of-age, Patterson represents one of this free-agency periods underrated value pickups.
Andre Roberson re-signs with Oklahoma City Thunder for three-years and $30 M on July 5
Recent All-Defensive Second Team inclusion Andre Roberson wasted little time before re-signing a friendly deal with OKC.
Upon his decision, league observers deemed this Thunder unit a legitimate ball-hawking threat due to its added length, toughness, and experience.
The 6’7 Roberson will again bring energy and heart to every possession as he embraces his role as the unshakable thorn that bogs down his opponents’ FG%.
Raymond Felton signed one-year $2.3 M contract July 7 with Oklahoma City Thunder
Outside of three-point struggles, last season, Oklahoma City’s greatest issues arose when Westbrook sat.
The above graph highlights OKC’s decline during intervals where ineffective reserves Semaj Christon, Cameron Payne and Norris Cole replaced its MVP.
Due to blown leads by mismanaged Thunder reserve groupings, 28-year-old Russell Westbrook’s load became cumbersome. The six-time All Star’s MVP award earned while leading a mostly inexperienced unit to 47 wins further enhances this sentiment.
As such, perhaps Sam Presti’s final design in a quest to outfit his impromptu contender was the acquisition of veteran point guard Raymond Felton.
Felton owns 12 seasons and 856 games of NBA sophistication. That alone places him ahead of last season’s backup PG triad. Further, though declining, the 2005 lottery pick still showcased flashes of prime bursts last year while averaging 6.7 PPG, and 2.4 APG for the Los Angeles Clippers.
In total, Felton boasts 11.9 PPG and 5.7 APG for his standout career.
As noted in an earlier WTLC article which placed Felton among main Presti offseason targets, the 6’1 guard’s top asset should be his ability to lead a lightly experienced second-unit.
Sam Presti’s vision and execution as General Manager over the past ten days has reinvigorated Thunder Nation. Further, with a deeply flawed roster construct now dramatically improved, palpable intrigue surrounds a revamped OKC collective.
Though no guarantees exist beyond 17-18’ for “WestGeorge,” this upcoming season will prove memorable on many fronts.