by: David Kay
2008-09 Season Summary:
The Thunder were awful in the 2008 portion of the season but were able to come together enough to be a respectable team in 2009. They played in a ton of close games and the roster really grew under Head Coach Scott Brooks after he took over in late November. The core of the team put together by GM Sam Presti truly gelled over the course of the season and is in good shape to build for the future.
C: Nenad Kristic/Etan Thomas/B.J. Mullens/Serge Ibaka
PF: Jeff Green/Nick Collison/D.J. White
SF: Kevin Durant
SG: James Harden/Thabo Sefalosha/Kyle Weaver/Robert Vaden
PG: Russell Westbrook/Kevin Ollie/Shaun Livingston
Head Coach: Scott Brooks (2nd year)
2009-2010 Team Salary: $49.9 million
Projected 2010-2011 Team Salary: approximately $39.6 million
Off-Season Grade: Passed
General manager Sam Presti continues to stick to his guns and build this team through the draft. Oklahoma City was the opposite of Memphis this off-season and did nothing stupid to mess up their salary cap situation or stray away from their game plan.
Give credit to Presti for passing on Ricky Rubio, the sexier pick, with the third overall pick and instead filling a need for a shooting guard by taking Harden who should fit right in with his unselfish, yet mature game. Taking a risk on B.J. Mullens, an athletic big with plenty of up-side was worth the gamble with their late first round pick.
Other than the draft, the former-Sonics made minor moves to round out their roster. They signed journeyman point guard Kevin Ollie and acquired Etan Thomas. Serge Ibaka arrives from Spain, but is another project post player who will need time to better develop his all-around game before he becomes a consistent contributor.
“Slowly, but surely” should be the motto in Oklahoma City. While the future looks extremely bright, the present is still very much a work in progress. Many are expecting Kevin Durant to make “the leap” and become an MVP-caliber player this season. Russell Westbrook proved to be the point guard of the future in his rookie season while Jeff Green is a great “glue guy” who knows his role on the floor.
Other than those three youngsters and Harden, there isn’t a lot to be excited about on this roster. Outside of Nick Collison, the bench is a bit of a mess with a lot of unproven players. I am excited about the future of this franchise and to watch their young players continue to improve and gain chemistry, but I still think they are a year or two away from being a true playoff contender.
Looking Ahead to the Summer of 2010:
The Thunder will have a good amount of money to spend next off-season. If history is any indication though, OKC will likely save their money and continue to build through the draft and save their cap space to re-sign their young, up-and-coming stars when they need to be re-signed.
However, there is the possibility that a younger free agent may see the potential on this roster and decide to sign with the Thunder to hurry the re-building process along. Presti has proven that he will not overspend for free agents, so I wouldn’t expect that to happen unless there it too good a bargain to pass up. Either way, a likely lottery pick will only help the youth movement.
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