by A.J. Coltrane
First James Harden wouldn’t take a steep discount to stay in OKC. So OKC downgraded to Kevin Martin. Now Martin has decided not to stay at a discounted rate either, opting to sign with Minnesota(!) instead. As a Plan “C” the Thunder then pursued free agent and super long wing guy Dorrell Wright, but he signed with Portland for 2 years and $6 million, total. Now, they’re basically out of answers.
OKC can’t, or won’t, make room under the salary cap for a 20-minute per game decent rotation player in Wright. The Thunder could amnesty (waive) Kendrick Perkins’ ~$9 million in an attempt to create cap space for guys like Martin and Wright — but they won’t because they’d still have to pay Perkins *not* to play for them, and the ownership group has made it clear that they’re not going to shell out funds beyond the standard salary cap. They’re stuck with Perkins two more years.
The upshot is that the Thunder are going to have to rely on 21 year-old Jeremy Lamb to play some important playoff minutes. Lamb played mostly in the D-League last year, and he only saw 147 minutes of action at the NBA level. Is he ready to contribute to a championship contender? The word is, he’s looked good in the D-League, but I’d say being a key cog for OKC is likely a stretch.
The interesting part of this to me is that nobody has been willing to sign with OKC for a discount, even though they’re a championship contender. LA? Sure. Houston? Ok. Miami? You bet! Usually championship contention will buy you veterans looking for a ring at a cheap price. Not in this case. There’s not much help coming from the roster, either. Many fringe championship teams will draft experienced college guys who can contribute right away. See: Spurs – DeJaun Blair, and, Celtics – Big Baby Davis. The Thunder have chosen to go with high upside raw prospects (Perry Jones III, D-Leager/benchwarmer). Their guys are not currently functional rotation players.
Remember all the articles that talked about how the Thunder players were a tight-knit group, and that they’d hang out together and watch movies and such. You know why they did that? I’m betting it’s not because they really dug each other’s company. It’s because there’s nothing else to do in OKC! It’s movie night every night! And again. And again! I wonder if Durant’s new wife is into movie night, or if they’re going to start doing “couples stuff” instead. Maybe she’ll finally be the one to “break up the band”, if it hasn’t already broken up.
And This: Durant now has Jay-Z as an agent. Jay-Z also owns part of the Nets. Is there any chance that Jay-Z is trying to sell Durant on Brooklyn? I think Durant’s wife would prefer Brooklyn. I think any potential “I want to try to win a ring” veterans would prefer Brooklyn. I think the ridiculously weathly owner in Brooklyn will spend around the edges for those types of spare parts. Brooklyn has Garnett and Pierce, but they’ll be retiring, and taking their salaries with them at about the time that Durant comes onto the market. Durant would instantly become A Legend in Brooklyn.
I have no idea how irritated I’d be right now if this franchise was still here.
Actually, I do. I’d be livid.