Thunder Nation sits in an odd position, one this young OKC-version franchise has never encountered. Yes, we’ve endured post-Harden and playoff-injured Westbrook versions, but this off-season, and all the fireworks surrounding it, provides a new narrative with so many facets we may not touch them all.
First, Oklahoma City had no prominent free agents it could lose, meaning it would seek no headliners as well. The only two attention-grabbers were Enes Kanter and Kyle Singler, but they held restricted status and the Thunder could decide their fate no matter what. The biggest movements on this team were those made at the February 2015 trade deadline and the firing of Head Coach Scott Brooks. So, in effect, OKC’s free agency commotion was solved back in February with the acquisition of Kanter, D.J. Augustin, Singler, and Steve Novak, as well as Dion Waiters in the January Cleveland trade and Anthony Morrow in last year’s free agency period. Oklahoma City’s hand was set way before the 2015 free agent frenzy. The wild card here, though, is that most of the newcomers on this current roster have not had the luxury of working with a healthy Kevin Durant, or a healthy complete roster, for that matter. No one has seen the lineup of Durant, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Enes Kanter and the to-be-determined two-guard in action at the same time.
On paper, and considering playoff equity-proven evidence, the Thunder are right there with World Champ Golden State, the fortified Spurs, and anyone in the East. So it’s always been my thought that the major movements by other teams in the league who are all still chasing Oklahoma City and the other two teams mentioned. The Thunder have already eclipsed the Clippers, Rockets, Mavericks, Portland, Memphis and New Orleans with the team they already have. So, solidifying the lineup with the 2015 pickups negated the necessity of involvement in summer free agency parade. Oklahoma City could sit on the sideline and watch everyone else fight for positioning to catch the champ and a couple of other powerhouses, including the Thunder.
The other unknown is the infusion of new Head Coach Billy Donovan. At the very least, Oklahoma City can function and win with this lineup and just about ANY leader. The x-factor is what Donovan does with his lineup in those toss-up games which decide key seeds for post-season. None of this can be predicted accurately yet, we have to see it evolve, and so does he.
So, while the rest of the NBA went bananas in free agency, both winning and losing, Oklahoma City had already taken that class last semester, so it basically sat idle. Kanter and Singler were the only true concerns, and they weren’t losable. Both got sweet deals and are bottled up for a few years.
Now, we wait for Halloween and the 2015-16 edition with most of the rest of the league settling in on lineups meant to catch the two former champs AND Oklahoma City.