The Thunder, who are currently seventh in the Western Conference, are still a competitive yet highly-formidable franchise, following Durant’s departure to Golden State. It’s very rare to see a team lose a superstar and not implement themselves for a rebuild. Fortunately enough, Oklahoma City still has one more in stock.
But what’s different about this one, though — is it worth building around?
Other than displaying a continuation of triple-double outbursts, there’s certainly not enough for this team to compete at a high level in the postseason. Not this year, and maybe not even the next.
Nonetheless, Thunder General Manager Sam Presti is pushing to move forward with Russ, and it’s been boldly written. Let’s date back to August 4th, 2016, when the Thunder reached a three-year, $85 million extension with the soon-to-be seven-time All-Star.
“For anybody as a leader, you know, coming into a different environment and different circumstances, I think the expectation would be that you would continue to grow and evolve…” Presti told the media with promising hope regarding to Russ’ future with the team Via WelcomeToLoudCity. ”
I think that’s his expectation… Russell has been a player and person that’s evolved every step of the way, and I think this is another opportunity for him to do that.”
Following the 2016-17 season, Westbrook will receive a cap-hit of $26,540,100, and has dead-money value of $85,591,823. As the Thunder keep Westbrook for three-more seasons, it’s at the most ideal time — as he turned 28 back in November.
Per-Game: 30.9 points, 10.5 rebounds, 10.2 assists, 1.5 steals, on 42% FG (23.9 FGA), a career-high 34% from 3PT, and 82% free-throw through 53 games played.
*43.8 PPG Per 48 Minutes.
Putting it briefly, Russell Westbrook hasn’t given anyone a reason as to why Oklahoma City shouldn’t have given him an extension. But it wasn’t always that way, as there were numerous reports of Westbrook possibly being dealt — in fear of leaving the team “Post-KD” the following summer. Those rumors startled me, because this is one of the more hungrier players in the league. It would’ve left so many of us confused if he left right after Kevin.
But essentially, Westbrook’s no-trade restriction was lifted this past Saturday — and as useless that sounds, he’s not going anywhere.
In the meantime, the Thunder have many holes to fill on their roster, if their intention is to build around Westbrook. They have depth, but not necessarily any primary weapons on the offensive-end, outside of SG Victor Oladipo and reserve C Enes Kanter. With multiple injuries and little help around the team, they’re too unkindled to beat the Western Conference’s top-powerhouses, nor are they bad enough to enter the lotter. That’s unless they decide to convince themselves to drag out the tank.
But again, that’s not happening either.
The biggest issue for the Thunder, is their gaping hole at Small Forward. Reminder that this doesn’t take anything away from what defensive swingman Andre Roberson has provided for them. He’s very quietly made his own case for Defensive Player of The Year, and anyone who’s watched him defend night-in and night-out will tell you, including Russell himself.
Oklahoma City has great value towards an attacking mindset, which fits Westbrook greatly. However, as a team who is second-to-last in three-point percentage (32%), more help must be provided at the SF position, to insert a consistent perimeter offense.
It was well documented (especially in the early season) of the Thunder having interest in Sacramento Kings‘ SF Rudy Gay. And of course it fell out the window — as soon as he went down with an achillies tear last month.
If you’re Oklahoma City, your eyes must be set on Danilo Gallinari, who will have a Player Option this upcoming June. And I’ll never forget when Durant declared him as his “toughest” defensive assignment, which is actually true. Gallinari would bring so much to the table, primarily on the offensive-end. Not only does he space the floor, but’s a lethal weapon for versatility, which Head Coach Billy Donovan is desperately looking for.
There’s plenty of ways where the Thunder could approach the “retooling” process, in an effort to keep Westbrook confident and satisfied — and it starts with the 2017 Free-Agency period. Expect Oklahoma City to have their eyes set on stars such as Demarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin, and Paul Millsap, who are all interesting assets for the Thunder to move forward with.
It’s been a while since the Thunder have had to do this, and with Russell Westbrook being this dominant, a 30-23 record in the West won’t show for much in the postseason.
Time is running out for Oklahoma City, and the entire organization knows it. And even though Russell signed the extension, it seemed as it was more of a “You have this much time to make it happen — or else,” kind of deal.
And no matter how you feel upon it — it’s most definitely true.