2011-12 Record: 47-19, 1st in Northwest Division, Eliminated in NBA Finals by Miami Heat
2012 NBA Draft: F Perry Jones III (Baylor, 28th overall)
Offseason Additions: C Hasheem Thabeet (2 years, $1.93 million), C Daniel Orton (1 year, $885,000)
Offseason Losses: G Royal Ivey (signed with Philadelphia 76ers), C Nazr Mohammed (signed with Chicago Bulls)
Re-signed: Coach Scott Brooks (4 years, $18 million), F Serge Ibaka (4 year, $48 million)
Projected Starting Line-up: PG Russell Westbrook, SG Thabo Sefolosha, SF Kevin Durant, PF Serge Ibaka, C Kendrick Perkins
OFFSEASON GRADE: C+
The reigning 2012 Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder only get a C+ for their offseason activity?
This team didn’t need to undergo any monster changes. They had a 1-0 lead in the NBA Finals and showed the potential to be recurring figures in the title picture for the next 5-8 years.
There was no need to tear down the infrastructure of this roster and take a different approach.
Despite not truly needing the good fortune, OKC still managed to make a big splash in this years draft, landing highly touted forward Perry Jones III out of Baylor University at pick 28.
Jones fell down draft boards with worries that a meniscus issue in his knee could present further problems at the pro level. Before his injury concerns, Perry was considered by many to be a top-10 prospect. If he had entered the NBA Draft a year earlier, he could have easily found himself being a top-5 selection
In his sophomore year at Baylor, Jones put up 13.5 points on 50% shooting, as well as 7.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists a game. The worry amongst scouts was that his numbers failed to show any significant improvement from his first to second year at the school, which brought into question his work ethic and motivation to be a top-level talent.
Selecting Perry with a lottery pick may have been a stretch considering the many red flags surrounding him, but at pick 28, it was an absolute no-brainer. Going to a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder with the coaching staff and young talented stars that they have will make Jones’ transition into the NBA all the more smooth.
He’s a jack-of-all-trades type of basketball player. He doesn’t really excel in one particular area, but he can get by in all facets of the game. He has the range to hit the 15-20 foot jumper, the length to defend larger bigs in the paint and the overall athleticism to finish strong at the rim.
Before the Thunder managed to resign Serge Ibaka to a new deal, Jones was considered insurance at the power forward spot in case Serge departed next summer. Now that he’s back, Perry will have the opportunity to develop at a more consistent pace instead of being thrown into the fire right away early in his career.
Speaking of Ibaka’s contract extension, his deal will pay him $48 million over the next 4 seasons.
At just 22 years of age, it was of the utmost importance to keep Serge locked up for the long-term. He had a league-leading 241 blocks last season (3.65 average, best in franchise history) and finished second in the NBA Defensive Player of the Year voting. His chemistry with his superstar teammates Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden is undeniable. His resigning will help keep a core intact that is just on the brink of achieving championship glory in the near future.
Ibakas’s best basketball is surely ahead of him, which will be a scary thing for opposing players trying to drive the basketball against the 6’10 shot blocker out of Congo.
Oklahoma City also landed former #2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet this summer, signing the former Trail Blazer to a 2 year, $1.93 million dollar contract.
This could very well be Thabeet’s last contract in the NBA, as he’s been nothing short of a bust since entering the league back in 2009, being selected second overall by the Memphis Grizzlies, just ahead of his now Thunder teammate James Harden. His career averages of 2.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 0.9 blocks leave anything to be desired. With backup center Nazr Mohammed now playing in Chicago, Thabeet may be called upon solemnly to play some minutes at the 5 spot while starter Kendrick Perkins rests on the bench. Either that, or he will find himself playing a “Cole Aldrich” role for this team, warming the bench on a nightly basis and soaking in the glory of his teammates.
Resigning head coach Scott Brooks was a huge move for this franchise, as he is the perfect man to lead this team to an NBA Championship. His mild-mannered personality meshes well with guys like Durant and Westbrook, as both stars have clearly shown that they buy into Brooks coaching philosophy and his style of leadership. Brooks has been with the Thunder through their lowest of lows and highest of highs. If negotiations with Brooks were to have broken down, I’m sure GM Scott Presti could have found a replacement with better credentials and a deeper resume than Scott, but moving forward, Brooks will always be the right man for this job.
For the offseason as a whole, it was pretty uneventful in Oklahoma City. Resigning Ibaka and coach Brooks were the right moves and landing Jones III in the draft was huge, but when Hasheem Thabeet is your big offseason free-agent acquisition (if you can even call that a “big” move), it’s hard to earn anything higher on the grading scale than a C+.
That is in no way a shot at Thunder management whatsoever. When your roster is as set in stone as this one, it’s pretty safe to say that any moves of any consequence will be few and far between.
OTHER OFFSEASON RECAPS: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Hornets, New York Knicks
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports