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Continuity is King

The Thunder have consolidated their roster in the offseason and are building for the future

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Portland Trail Blazers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in six years, Sam Presti had an offseason in which he could focus on building the Thunder’s roster for the future. Presti was not concerned with moving veterans on or attempting to win now with the roster he has. There have been no Carmelo trades in the offseason so far and that will be beneficial for the Thunder going forward.

Oklahoma City’s only notable subtraction was Isaiah Roby. Roby started as the Thunder’s center for a good portion of last season and fitted nicely into Coach Daigneault’s philosophy. Daigneault wants versatility at every single position and Roby was able to provide that with his passing and shooting.

However, Isaiah was undersized at center and really struggled to guard players who were bigger than him. The addition of Jaylin Williams and Chet Holmgren added more options into the Thunder’s front-court which would have made finding minutes for Isaiah more difficult.

Roby was one of the gems unearthed by the Thunder’s coaching staff in the 2020-21 season. His success with the Thunder was testament to the hard work put in with the coaching staff and with the ‘Breakfast Club’. It made sense for the Thunder and Roby to mutually agree to a waiver where he could find more regular minutes elsewhere.

Other than Isaiah, the Thunder’s only losses were Zavier Simpson, Jaylen Hoard and Melvin Frazier Jr. All three players were on the fringes on Coach Daigneault’s rotation and have arguably been replaced by more promising young players.

In contrast, the Thunder have added four rookies in the Draft, each with varying levels of expectation. Chet Holmgren is a two-way big with the sort of franchise changing potential who should mesh nicely with Josh Giddey.

Ousmane Dieng is a long-term value proposition and a talent who will need to be nurtured. Dieng has played professional basketball in New Zealand but he is still raw and requires time to physically develop. I do not expect him to be brilliant out of the box but the idealised vision of Ousmane is rather exciting.

Dieng’s ceiling is a playmaker who can guard, defend and shoot with good efficiency. Big wings with all three capabilities are very rare and cannot be acquired easily. The Raptors outright refused to discuss offers around Scottie Barnes and placed a high price tag on OG Anunoby. Dieng could be that player for the Thunder if all goes well.

Jalen Williams is a smooth, savvy guard who can come off the bench and run the offense. It is hard to say how far his development might go but I am encouraged with how his control of pace has translated to the NBA.

Jaylin Williams has the lowest ceiling out of the Thunder’s draft picks but he is most likely to be an immediate contributor. J-Will’s physicality on defense and his crafty passing should translate immediately. Williams’ self-creation will be pretty rough but his unselfish style of play should raise the Thunder’s performance levels.

On the whole, these four rookies should add a lot of talent to the Thunder’s rotation without necessarily disrupting the chemistry already established. The theme of continuity is pretty clear and becomes even more evident when you look at the contract extensions negotiated by Sam Presti.

Oklahoma City have signed long-term deals with Luguentz Dort, Kenrich Williams and Mike Muscala in the last few months. I would say that this is not the mark of a team who is desperately hunting for talent. Rebuilding teams tend to cycle through rosters until they find the pieces they really want.

Keeping Dort was a no-brainer but the decision to retain the team’s veteran is what is most interesting to me. The Thunder could have got real value for both Williams and Muscala. Kenrich is a multi-positional defensive wing who can drain jumpers; he would be an excellent fit on a contending team. Muscala is a highly efficient stretch-5 with underrated interior defense.

Choosing to keep both players indicates that Presti values the organisational knowledge and continuity that they can bring to this particular roster. Respected veterans are guides for young players to follow and listen to. They can provide guidance in a way that is easier to respond to.

From a basketball stand-point, retaining Muscala and Kenny Hustle should only help the team’s chemistry improve. Veterans who understand floor spacing and the team’s concepts allow young players to bed into the offense without undue pressure.

Sam Presti has prioritised keeping the roster the same for the upcoming season and that choice should allow the Thunder to grow as a team under Coach Daigneault’s watch. Great teams are often close-knit groups and that brotherhood only comes with time.