Being an open-ended discussion, after reading feel free to sound off in our section below stating your opinions regarding these questions and more.
NBA QR: 1) Last season was Oklahoma City's first without Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook went OFF.
He joined Oscar Robertson as the only other player to average a triple double for an entire season. A feat that stood for 50 years.
Russ led his team to 47 wins and a playoff appearance on his way to a well deserved league MVP. That being said, talks abound concerning his contract extension.
Right now he is eligible to sign a supermax designated veteran player exception which would pay him more than $235 million over six years. Will he sign the extension and continue to be the man in Oklahoma City? Why or why not?
A) Joshua Broom: Following Durant’s departure, Russ’ MVP ascension indeed eclipsed even the most pollyannish forecasts and set the table for this summer’s upgrades. However, as the 17-18’ Thunder appears highly contingent beyond next season, expect Westbrook to adopt a wait-and-see approach concerning a blockbuster re-sign.
The 6’3 force, quickly approaching 29, will likely retain contractual flexibility heading into what could become an eventful 2018 free-agency period.
NBA QR: 2) Paul George will be one of the biggest free agents once this coming season ends. The Thunder were lucky enough to land him via trade for the 2017-18 campaign. A lot has been said about George wanting to become a Laker in the near future. What do you make of the rumor and what are the odds Oklahoma City signs him in free agency?
A) JB: Concerning LAL rumors: I believe, as he stated to Lee Jenkins, that George only becomes a Laker next summer if the ‘stars’ align. Obviously, both Westbrook and LeBron James —who each appear open for a market test-run— will factor heavily into PG’s plans.
Even so, if OKC forges a deep post-season path, and at minimum retains its current roster, (but mainly, Westbrook) then there is still a good chance George re-signs.
This upcoming 82-plus game stretch is crucial for the immediate future of Thunder basketball.
NBA QR: 3) The addition of Paul George is absolutely huge but the Western Conference is stacked. How much better are they now that OKC has him? Do they eventually crack the top three that is Golden State, Houston, and San Antonio?
A) JB: Listen, it’s pie in the sky to believe any franchise surpasses GSW next season. Although, bolstered by a presumably stout defense and formidable one-two punch, OKC can realistically leap-frog both Houston and SAS for the #2 spot.
It is my belief Houston gained CP3 at a pyrrhic cost. That cost being, of course, excellent chemistry and the impact tandem of Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams — each of whom complimented Harden almost perfectly within D’Antoni’s system.
Resultantly, LAC should surprise with its return for the All-Star guard.
While gauging each aforesaid teams’ construct, I envision a Thunder rise as San Antonio and Houston recently ceded understated system-enhancing contributors.
NBA QR: 4) Ever since LeBron James went to Miami the Thunder have been contenders. In that time they have lost two perennial super stars in KD and James Harden while managing to keep Westbrook and add George. What or who would it take to really push this team over the edge?
A) JB: I feel it’d take a more well-rounded commodity than Carmelo Anthony or Rudy Gay for such an ascent.
Realistically, in this GSW-dominated climate, as with any contender outside Cleveland, LeBron James’ addition would likely be required to thrust OKC alongside the Warriors dynasty.
And even then, developing requisite chemistry to upend Golden State would prove challenging.
NBA QR: 5) The Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes are unfortunately still a thing. Melo can't seem to leave New York even though they didn't want him all last year. But this week Bill Simmons of The Ringer tweeted that "OKC and Carmelo are officially circling each other". Do you think there is any truth to the rumor and would Melo help or hurt the Thunder?
A) JB: No. This conjecture holds scant merit.
Simmons’ announcement of an OKC/Melo’ deal is little more than a NYK-friendly spin designed to compel Houston or Portland toward a rushed trade offer for Anthony.
Though, hypothetically, if a deal transpired with OKC, Melo’ for Kanter/Singler would enhance the team, provided Anthony embraced a lesser role alongside Westbrook and George.
However, any such move involving Oklahoma City should be taken with a true grain of salt.
NBA QR: 6) There was definitely a falling out between the Oklahoma City Thunder fans and Kevin Durant, it may not have been as horrific as "The Decision" but it was still messy. Are the Thunder fans still angry with him? If not how have they been able to move on from losing such an amazing talent?
A) JB: There is still palpable animosity from Thunder Nation toward its former cornerstone. The people of Oklahoma City feel justifiably betrayed by the subversive manner in which KD left, a manner which contradicts how his successor, Paul George, handled his break with Indiana.
As the initial flames from July 4, 2016 have overtly abated, there will always remain a smolder of distaste from OKC concerning Durant.
Despite this, Thunder fans are embracing the possibilities of the here-and-now.
NBA QR: 7) Billy Donovan knows a thing or two about winning championships (in college) and he has done a nice job transitioning to the NBA. How would you grade him so far and is he the long term solution?
A) JB: Apart from a master stroke playoff checkmate of SAS in 16’, I’d grade his results as mixed.
Yes, last season Westbrook thrived under Donovan, and subsequently, the team overachieved.
Although, amid the milestones, some felt a more sophisticated NBA play-caller would have benefited Oklahoma City’s inexperienced nucleus.
Regardless, facing win-now urgency, this year’s performance will determine whether Donovan cements his place as OKC’s long-term Head Coach.
8. If there was one thing about this organization (front office members, executives, players, coaches) that you could change in order to make OKC a better team what would it be?
A) JB: Way to put me on the hot-seat!
Succinctly, I’m among those who believe a mature Head Coach with greater NBA experience would place this team on a higher competitive plane.
While not a ringing endorsement, this assessment isn’t a knock either, as given his circumstances, I think Donovan has accounted relatively well for himself with OKC.
But only so much can be expected of a college-to-NBA sideline leader. I think the sophistication gained from observing methods and schemes as a professional Assistant Coach is invaluable.
Especially when much of your roster is still maturing.
With these insightful questions broached, let’s ready, in late July, for an intense, exciting season of Thunder basketball.