Our beloved OKC Thunder may or may not be tanking, but make no mistake they are rebuilding. During a successful rebuild the GM must be ruthless. Players come and go, barely getting their 15 minutes of fame, then all but the few precious keepers are shunted aboard the first greyhound out of town.
We have 15 first round picks in the next four years, that’s a full NBA squad of rookie players. While there’s no way in hell they let me, or even Presti, make all those picks, those ‘assets’ will eventually be turned into incoming players in some form or other. Let’s say we make 10 of them - then 10 current players need to be shown the door pronto.
The rock upon which we’ll build this church, has the longest name in the NBA and possibly the most potential, SGA. Everyone else is expendable. For me, next cabs off the rank are Diablo and Bambi, one has shown tremendous growth... And the other is an utter klutz called Darius Bazley... But is 6ft 8in tall with a frame to grow, and has an outside shot!
That’s three players I feel committed to for the foreseeable future... Of another season at least... So out of 15 roster spots, do we really only have three keepers? Or, are there some more hidden gems buried on our bench with intriguing upsides? Even a few cheap efficient role-players to round out the bench would be welcome...
Now firmly cemented in their 30s, CP3 and Gallo are not the future. They are great savvy veterans and shining examples for the present, but with a combined salary of more than $60m, they need to be taken off the books ASAP for cap relief... Much needed relief, as we are still 6th overall out of the 30 NBA teams and flirting with the ugly luxury tax.
Which brings me to my bright idea, shining a spotlight on the remaining players one-by-one, to decide whether we would snog, marry, or scrub them... Actually strike that, make it trade, keep or let contract expire... Yep, more appropriate... Hey, ideas evolve you know!
I figure we should take a totally objective view of players... But then filter it, bend it like Beckham, through the prism of my random bias. Trust me it’s for the best. Besides, if you disagree there is the comments section... Or other sites... Other sports... Helplines etc. So I spent a lot of time, within my self-imposed two-minute limit - it’s my life mantra - coming up with 10 carefully weighted categories - see below.
First case study is Dennis Schröder. So let’s put him under the microscope...
- Length for position: In this day and age, he’s slightly undersized and a PG only at 6ft 1in. 4
- Athleticism for position: Quick and nimble he can get to the rim. 7
- Scoring ability: Streaky scorer who rides his hot hand. 8
- Defensive ability: Average and positionally limited, but he does try. 6
- Efficiency: A current PER of 12.7 is not good but not horrible either. 5
- Personality: After six years, he’s still a simmering hothead, which is slightly disappointing. 4
- Team fit: Runs the second unit and is unafraid to do the bulk of the scoring, so has value in this squad for sure. 8
- Value for Wages: At $15.5m with another year to come is not good. 3
- League readiness: As a seventh-year veteran, should be better. 5
- Ceiling: At 27, he’s reached it and, in fact, peaked two years ago. 5
Overall 5.5: The narrative I was looking for, when I set out to write this piece, was that of a late bloomer finally finding his place... Learning from the cooler calmer heads of CP3 and SGA... A Sixth Man of the Year candidate...
However, as every Thunder fan knows, reality is a heartless banshee. Statistically - a slap in the face from Basketball Reference.com - the Menace seems to have actually peaked in Atlanta three years ago. Now, in his seventh season he’s sadly seen better years, both with his points (14.7 has 3 better years) and PER (12.7 has 4 better years). At this stage, he is what he is... Expendable.
Verdict: Trade or more probably, let contract expire.