NBA fans never hear any rumblings of what the Thunder are doing in the trade and free agency market.
It’s part of what has made them so successful as a franchise. It’s another reason the Thunder have had the best offseason in the association this year. Thanks to general manager Sam Presti, the Thunder are looking as if they will have one of their strongest rosters ever when the season tips off in October.
Presti and the Thunder brass have always been quiet, lurking in the shadows of the NBA trade market always looking to make a big splash. It’s how they landed former Indiana forward Paul George. It’s how, time and time again, the Thunder’s front office looks like the one of the best in the NBA.
There have been some questionable decisions, sure. Trading James Harden because of a contract dispute doesn’t look great now, but there was no guarantee Harden would have reached MVP-caliber status if he remained in Thunder blue. Kevin Durant’s departure shook up the central plains a year ago, but Thunder fans are looking to the future now more than ever thanks to Presti and Co.
Oklahoma City needed another superstar to play alongside Russell Westbrook. His late-game heroics often took a front seat to his struggles finding someone on the floor who could make a big play down the stretch. Westbrook doesn’t have to wonder whether his teammates are ready to help him now. He has another top NBA player on the wing.
George isn’t Durant, but Durant isn’t George. Durant is the world’s best scorer, though George can put the ball in the basket, too. He averaged a career-high 23.7 points per contest last season, making 46.1 percent of his shots and 39.1 percent from deep.
Presti added what the Thunder needed most: another scoring option to help Westbrook. No longer does Westbrook need to be the only hero, he has Robin. But George and Westbrook can coexist, taking over games with their combined skills on offense, leaving defenses bewildered and confused after the duo combined for a game-clinching 8-0 run in the final minutes. It’s a sight Thunder fans will see many times in 2017-18.
George isn’t a one way player, though, as his defense has earned him a spot on three All-Defensive teams because of his lockdown prowess on the perimeter. Another superstar will be playing in Chesapeake Energy Arena this offseason, thanks to Presti’s patience and aggressiveness.
Indiana sifted through multiple offers for its four-time All-Star, receiving calls from Cleveland, Boston and Los Angeles. After George said he would not return to Indiana following the final season on his contract, opposing GM’s continued to call Indiana to see how they could get George on their team. Presti was one of them, but he waited for the right moment.
Presti knew Indiana wanted Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Oladipo is a fan favorite of the state; he played at Indiana and still hasn’t reached his prime. Sabonis has potential, but Presti didn’t see his fit with Westbrook as he pictured it when he acquired Sabonis from Orlando.
About two hours before the official start to the new league season, Presti shot from half-court, the shot ripping the cotton and harmlessly hitting the court beneath him.
Presti landed another superstar.
Whether George will commit to Oklahoma City remains unseen. George has said he wants to play for the Lakers starting next season, but possibly a season playing with Westbrook will change his mind to sign long term.
The chances of George staying are slim, but they can improve. Presti made a gamble. Trade two players who have long contracts for a possible one-year rental for George, but it shows his commitment to want to win now. Presti wants to build a team around Westbrook, and George was just the start.
The Thunder signed power forward Patrick Patterson to a three-year, $16.4 million deal. Patterson, a three-and-D player, has excelled in the NBA to this point in his career. The Raptors’ outscored their opponents by 1,004 points while Patterson was on the floor the past three seasons. When he was off the floor, they were outscored by 38.
Patterson can play power forward or center on defense and he can stretch the floor offensively. The past three seasons, Patterson made at least 94 3-pointers. His presence with George will open up the floor tremendously for the Thunder next season, who finished last in three-point percentage in 2016-17.
Presti wasn’t done, though. He re-signed Andre Roberson to a three-year, $30 million offer, which was $2 million less than Presti offered Roberson before the season. It’s a steal, yes, but Roberson still can improve in his game. His offense needs a lot of work. This deal will be one of the best Presti has negotiated with a player if Roberson can maintain a steady shooting stroke and knock down free throws consistently.
Roberson was paid for his defense. Roberson and George will be one of, if not, the best perimeter defending duo’s in the league next season. Shoot, Oklahoma City’s defense will be one of the best, too. If and when Roberson improves his offensive game, he could open up the floor even more for Westbrook and George.
Friday, Presti signed veteran point guard Raymond Felton to a one-year deal. The Thunder solved their backup point guard problem. Although Felton, 33, is near the end of his career, he is a veteran presence in the locker room and will help mend some of the bench struggles the Thunder had last season.
Felton can score, distribute and defend well, especially in the 10-15 minutes he will play each night. As long as the Thunder don’t go missing when Westbrook and George are on the bench, which having Felton should help, the signing is a successful one.
The Thunder had a few glaring holes going into the offseason and they addressed all of them through trades and free agency. Presti added another superstar next to Westbrook, he added a power forward who can spread the floor and defend and he added a backup point guard. Presti also re-signed one of the best defensive guards in the league. Even the Thunder’s draft pick, Terrance Ferguson, is known for his three-and-D style on the wing.
The Thunder needed shooting and Presti got it. The Thunder needed players to spread the floor, check. A backup point guard: no problem. Help for the franchise player, you got it.
Presti is a wizard, but this isn’t Hogwarts.
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