Oklahoma City Thunder: How to approach the future without Billy Donovan

Oklahoma City Thunder huddle (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Oklahoma City Thunder huddle (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Oklahoma City Thunder look for a new identity without Billy Donovan

After a well-fought first-round NBA playoff battle with the Houston Rockets resulting in a Game 7, the Oklahoma City Thunder were eliminated from the bubble last week after a year full of overachieving expectations.

News out of the organization came out not soon after stating the Thunder and head coach Billy Donovan agreed to part ways after not being able to come to terms on an extension. Rumors circulated that he and the organization couldn’t agree as to where the team was headed, with a rebuild looming over OKC in the coming years.

Now with Donovan gone, questions lie with what the team should be doing in the upcoming offseason to begin their rebuild.

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The team has a solid young core with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander being the key piece the team needs to build around. I think nearly anyone has to be on the market this offseason except for a few young pieces. Along with SGA, rookie Darius Bazley proved he can be a solid scoring option in the league at only 19. Undrafted rookie Luguentz Dort also looks to be a solid defensive option to match in the backcourt with Gilgeous-Alexander for years to come. But after that, I think almost anyone can get traded.

Veterans Danilo Gallinari, Nerlens Noel, and Andre Roberson all hit the free-agent market after the year and most likely won’t return. The sixth man of the year finalist Dennis Schroder will have a year left on his contract and can demand a decent return if traded as well as big man Steven Adams.

But the key piece the team is going to be shopping is future Hall-of-Famer Chris Paul, who helped lead this squad to a Western Conference playoff in his first year back in Oklahoma City. Earning his 10th all-star nod and averaging 17.6 points and 6.7 assists in his age-34 season, CP3 proved he still has enough left in the tank to make a run at his first title. With Paul being the biggest name on the trade block this offseason, who are the options that can land him?

First off we have the Milwaukee Bucks, who finished as the best team in the regular season once again but failed to make it past the second round in the playoffs. With potential two-time MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, Giannis Antetokounmpo, set to hit the free-agent market after next season, the clock is ticking on Milwaukee proving they can win with the Greek Freak.

A trade for CP3 in Milwaukee is not only a high possibility but might need to be made if Milwaukee wants to win it all next year. A haul of Eric Bledsoe, Donte DiVincenzo, and several future first-round picks could be enough to land him.

The New York Knicks could also look to make a push at CP3 but will need to throw in RJ Barrett, a few future first-round picks, and/or Mitchell Robinson to get it done. A price that I think is too high to pay for New York.

As for the approach towards the new guy to run the show in Oklahoma City, I think the team will opt to go young, with a coach that can be molded along with his rebuilding squad. Some options I think are realistic are Kenny Atkinson, Becky Hammon, and possibly even to hire from within with assistant coach and former player Mo Cheeks. Brett Brown and Nate McMillan are names that will circulate as well although I feel like those two will be bigger options for Chicago’s job.

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It was a fun run this year watching the Thunder, but reality has now settled in and the team will have to hit a rebuild for a few years. I do think they are ahead of the game in most rebuilds though, with several solid young pieces already in the system and the ability to trade for a few more for their veteran pieces.