With the NBA poised to return in late July, teams have been given the option of making roster modifications between June 23- 30. Additionally, organizations can take 17 active players to Disney World — two more than usually allowed.
So, what does this mean for the Thunder?
OKC was rolling last time we saw them in action, going into Boston without SGA and gritting out a great road win on March 8. They held the league’s longest winning streak and looked poised to take over the 4-seed in the West before Rudy Gobert shut down the sports world. Do the they need outside personnel to make a title run, or stand pat?
Here are seven moves I think we could see from Presti & Co.
Signing Lu Dort to a Long-Term Contract
This move comes as the easiest to predict. Since moving into the starting lineup on January 20th against the Rockets, the Thunder is 16-5 with Dort. Per 36 minutes, he averages 10.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.2 assists— seemingly modest considering his position. However, what he brings to this team is tenacious defense and swagger that you typically do not see with undrafted rookies. He knows he belongs in the league, and it shows in his playing style. With his big frame, he can body up opposing bigs on switches, but laterally quick enough to keep up with stars such as Harden and Mitchell.
Going forward, it appears he is an integral piece to the Thunder’s future, and I think it will show in the contract that he and the front office negotiate. Something in the realm of a late 2019 first-round pick prorated deal seems to make the most sense. The biggest question is, will the last year be a team controlled option, or will Dort and his reps push for a player option. Either way, Thunder fans should be excited to see his game grow moving forward.
Potential Free Agent Additions
Bringing in free agents this late in the season always comes with a risk to mess up team chemistry. Look no further than last year with Markieff Morris. The most significant point of need for this version of the Thunder is wing depth, as it is with most teams that aren’t from The Bay. Although the lists of free agents this late is undoubtedly limited, there are a few names that could help bolster the end of the rotation.
The number 4 pick in the 2016 draft by the Suns, this native Croatian is known for being able to stretch the floor. Standing at 7’0″, he shot the three-ball at a 38.4% clip for the 2019-2020 season. That puts him 3rd on the roster in terms of three-point percentage behind Gallo at 40.9% and slightly ahead of Schroder at 38.1%. You can never have too much shooting coming off the bench, especially in the playoffs.
A career 38.7% shooter from deep, he would thrive off open shots created by Schroder’s drive and dishes. Since being dealt by Brooklyn, he has not averaged more than 20 minutes or 5 shots a game between his last two stops in Minnesota and Atlanta. Given his shooting ability, he certainly deserves a look.
This signing would have been every Thunder fan’s ideal scenario 3-5 years ago. After winning the title with the Cavs in 2016, Shump has bounced around the league, unable to find consistency in his game. He is a long wing, with a 6’9″ wingspan, that can find multiple ways to score. He also brings a veteran presence to the bench that it is currently lacking.
The bulldawg himself. The chances of this actually happening are slim to none, but hey, we can dream right? Imagine how much Billy must be salivating at the opportunity to deploy a four-guard lineup in Orlando!
Running it Back with the Current Roster
This might not be the sexiest move for the Thunder to make, but it seems to be the likeliest to happen. The team is still currently over the luxury tax line by $920,000 and signing Dort to a long-term deal would only increase that tax.
With such a long lay-off, this has given injured players such as Bazley and Roberson the chance to comfortably rehab even more. By the time the regular season resumes, I think we see Bazley sliding back into his role, about 17 minutes per game. Being able to play meaningful minutes in the playoffs will pay huge dividends for his development going forward.
As for Roberson, with over two calendar years away from the game, if he can come back for the regular season and playoffs, this could be the wild card addition of the league. Regarded as one of the NBA’s elite defenders before his injury, he could improve an already good Thunder team defense (ranked 9th overall at 108.4). The biggest thing for him will be conditioning and lateral quickness. Even if he can only give 5-10 minutes a game, this will be huge for the rotation.
A playoff rotation of CP3, Dort, Shai, Gallo, Adams, Schroder, Nerlens, Ferg, Bazley, and Roberson will be a tough out for any team.