Let’s preface this by saying the Oklahoma City Thunder are still probably the best team in the Western Conference.
They have two of the 10 best players in the league. They’re coming off a 60-win season, and their three core players are all 24 years old or younger — in other words, they should get better under the sheer force of natural progression.
But that natural progression is really their only hope of improving as a basketball team in 2013-14, because they’ve stood still this offseason.
Kevin Martin, the team’s third-leading scorer in 2012-13 and a major asset in the James Harden trade, left for Minnesota. OKC got a trade exception in return (which is intriguing), but no rotation player to fill his role.
They’ve only signed one free agent (Derek Fisher), but not for a lack of effort. Judging by the rumours, they’ve been trying to bring in a three-point shooting wing, but have come up empty. They were reportedly after Dorrell Wright (who signed with Portland) and Mike Miller (who picked Memphis over OKC).
Their draft wasn’t exactly a home run either. They picked Steven Adams 12th overall, who’s widely considered a talented but raw player who isn’t ready to contribute in the NBA anytime soon.
All of this goes back to the disastrous James Harden trade.
There are perfectly logical reasons why OKC dumped Harden. But nearly a year later, all they have in exchange for one of the 20 best players in the NBA is a trade exception, Jeremy Lamb (who spent much of last year in the D League), and Steven Adams.
That trade was their chance to surround Westbrook and Durant with complementary role players, and it just hasn’t worked out, to put it mildly.
Again, OKC is still really, really good and young and has a bunch of guys (Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb) who could take a huge leap forward this year.
But after a lost summer, they aren’t the juggernaut they could have been.
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