Oklahoma City Thunder must erase the mistake of last off-season

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Trading James Harden appears to have been a rare mistake for Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti especially with how the season ended since Russell Westbrook’s injury really cost them any chance of a return trip to the NBA Finals.  Suddenly, OKC finds themselves needing to add some bench pieces to have a chance to remain among the best out West.

Oklahoma City Thunder (60-22 last year)

2012-13 Season Summary:
After finishing with the best record in the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder ’s chances of winning the NBA Championship came crashing down when Russell Westbrook tore his meniscus in the team’s opening round playoff series against the Rockets.  Without Westbrook and void left behind by James Harden who was dealt prior to the start of the season, Kevin Durant simply couldn’t do it all to carry OKC back to another NBA Finals and the team was upset by the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round.

Durant and Westbrook were the top scoring duo in the NBA having to pick up the scoring slack left behind by Harden.  Durant was nothing short of amazing as his superstardom continues to skyrocket while Westbrook’s playmaking skills as a point guard are among the top in the league.  Serge Ibaka also improved his offensive game to help round out his all-around abilities as a shot blocker and rebounder.  Kevin Martin came over in the Harden deal and replaced him as the team’s sixth man.  Though Martin lacked the punch of Harden, he played his role on the team well.

The rest of the OKC roster was made up of role players.  Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison provided size and toughness but little offense in the paint while Thabo Sefalosha was once again the team’s top perimeter defender.  Derek Fisher was brought back late in the season because of his leadership and three-point shooting, and proved to a vital addition once Westbrook went down.  The steady development of Reggie Jackson provides promise for the future so much that the Thunder dealt Eric Maynor to Portland.  Jeremy Lamb, another key cog in the Harden deal, was seldom used and spent most of the season in the D-League as did fellow first round pick, Perry Jones.

2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Kendrick Perkins/Hasheem Thabeet
PF: Serge Ibaka/Nick Collison
SF: Kevin Durant/DeAndre Liggins/Perry Jones
SG: Thabo Sefalosha/Jeremy Lamb
PG: Russell Westbrook/Reggie Jackson

NBA Free Agents:
SG-Kevin Martin (UFA)
PG-Derek Fisher (UFA)
SG-Ronnie Brewer (UFA)
C-Daniel Orton (UFA)

2013-14 Team Salary: approximately $66.1 million

Team Needs:
1. Bench Scorer: With Martin a free agent and James Harden not walking through the door every again, the Oklahoma City Thunder need to find a bench scorer.  They will likely try to retain Martin for a reasonable rate but he should be able to find a bigger contract than Presti will be wanting to pay.  With little cap flexibility, finding a veteran with the mid-level exception seems like the route OKC must take to fill this need.

2. A Big: Perkins was awful in the postseason and Thabeet is not the answer inside so OKC should look to use one of their first round draft picks (12 or 29) to find a potential big man of the future.  The Thunder can skate by for now with who they have since Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison are capable of playing the five with Kevin Durant moving up to the four.

3. Use Assets Wisely: With three of the top 32 picks in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Thunder have some flexibility; whether it is packaging picks to move up, drafting and stashing a European prospect, or holding still and hoping to find a potential role player or two.

OTHER NBA TEAM NEEDS PAGES:
Atlanta Hawks
Boston Celtics
Brooklyn Nets
Charlotte Bobcats
Chicago Bulls
Cleveland Cavaliers
Dallas Mavericks
Detroit Pistons
Golden State Warriors
Houston Rockets
Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Lakers
Memphis Grizzlies
Milwaukee Bucks
Minnesota Timberwolves
New Orleans Pelicans
New York Knicks
Orlando Magic
Phoenix Suns
Portland Blazers
Sacramento Kings
Toronto Raptors
Utah Jazz
Washington Wizards

CLICK HERE FOR THE SPORTS BANK’S 2013 NBA MOCK DRAFT

David Kay is a senior feature NBA DraftNBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)

You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.

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