With Paul George likely testing free-agency this summer, there is a very good chance that his tenure with OKC will end. The Thunder obviously have their centerpiece for the team in Russell Westbrook, but many believe that in order to take down the superteams of the west they need another superstar to pair with them. That’s if the Thunder can pair the right pieces together with Westbrook, they will still be able to compete with the elite teams of the NBA.
The Thunder already have one key piece to the puzzle in potential All-Star Steven Adams. Adams has improved dramatically year by year, and if he continues to improve this offseason it’ll be hard to keep him out of the All-Star Game for another year. They also have a great defensive anchor in Andre Roberson, and if they lock him in a gym to work on shooting all summer; he could be an even more serious threat next season. But with no first-round draft picks, they will have to rely on free agency to get the pieces needed to make a serious run next year.
If Melo takes his player option (which he probably will since he’s worth nowhere near his contract) the Thunder will have just over 25 million to fill in the holes needed to be a contender next season. With the 25 million, they will need to fill three roles: starting wing, starting power forward, and backup point guard.
On the wing, the Thunder need someone who can provide offensive support for Russell Westbrook without taking the ball out of his hands. JJ Reddick is the best shooter within the Thunder’s price range available, but his offense is one-sided and he is an absolute liability on defense. The best option to fill the void PG will be leaving on the wing is Will Barton. Coming off the best season of his career Barton is an athletic finisher who can knock down the three and should fit in well with Westbrook.
With Steven Adams locking down the paint, the Thunder need a power forward who can knock down the three to clear the paint for Westbrook. Though he’s a risk with his recent injuries, when healthy Jabari Parker showed tremendous potential of living up to the number two pick. While he was healthy in the 2016-17 season, Parker averaged 20 points, 6 rebounds, and almost 3 assists. Parker clearly has the best upside of any potential free agents for the Thunder, but since he’s a restricted free agent; they will need a backup plan. Thaddeus Young is another viable option to help Steven Adams down low. Young is not as efficient as Parker on the offensive end, but he is a much better defender; and his build will allow him to have more success in the post than Parker.
With the Thunder having to spend the majority of their cap space shoring up the holes in the starting lineup, they will have little or no cap space left to sign a backup point guard. They could re-sign Raymond Felton, or maybe get a steal with their second-round draft pick as they have in the past; but there is one player who they could take the risk on with their mid-level exception (Contract that allows teams to go over the salary cap by a specified amount). Even though most Thunder fans can’t stand his brother, Seth Curry showed true NBA talent a year ago before being forced to sit out this entire year due to injury. Curry could be a good playmaker coming off the bench, but he could also play alongside Westbrook; providing great three-point shooting to a team that finished among the bottom of the league in terms of three-point efficiency this season.
We’ve all seen what happens when you put all your time into trying to re-sign one player without thinking of the possibility of him leaving, and the Thunder can’t afford to do that again. They need to prepare to win without Paul George, and if they are able to make even just one of these moves; they won’t be stranded like they were two years ago when KD left.