Preseason Preview #6: Oklahoma City Thunder

Season Goal: Championship

With Russell Westbrook turning 30 this season OKC’s window of opportunity is very short. As their star ages and loses the athleticism he relies on, they will have $40M+ committed to an average point guard. Over the next few years, they are completely trapped financially. Between Westbrook, George, and Adams alone the Thunder have nearly $100M committed. This gives them no money to add in free agency and makes trading for quality pieces even more difficult. For these reasons, if Oklahoma City is going to win a championship they have to do it now.

Storylines:

Andre’s Impact

One of the more underrated injuries last season was Andre Roberson’s ruptured left patellar tendon. Even though Roberson isn’t a star level player and is nearly useless on offense he still has a lot of value to the Thunder. As a defensive stopper, Roberson improved the Thunder’s defensive rating by an incredible 11 points when he was on the court. Even though he slightly hurt their offense, his defensive abilities more than made up for it. OKC is not a very deep team, so losing Roberson forced them to give minutes to less talented players. This was a major reason the Thunder was such a streaky team last year as they didn’t have the consistency Roberson provided. Hopefully, he stays healthy this year and everybody can see how much he helps the team,

Schroder vs Westbrook

Although adding a starting-caliber point guard to their bench sounds amazing, it may come with some problems. After OKC dumped Melo’s salary on the Hawks and gained Dennis Schroder people everywhere thought the Hawks were robbed. It was still a good trade for OKC, but Schroder’s long-term contract and questionable skill set raises some questions. The Thunder will have to pay Schroder $15.5 million a year for the next 3 seasons. This is a lot of money to pay a backup point guard and gives the Thunder no financial flexibility in the future.

The other problem with Schroder is his fit with Westbrook. Since the Thunder already have two high-usage stars in Westbrook and George it’s hard to figure out how Schroder fits in. Last season, Schroder had a 30.4 usage rate, which will be unsustainable on his new team. Also, even though he scored 19.4 PPG, he was extremely inefficient. Shooting just 29% from three and 43.6% from the field, Schroder was essentially a good shot-chucker on a bad team. Schroder will have to significantly change his game and improve his efficiency this season. If he doesn’t it may be another year of OKC going home early.

Depth Chart:

PG: Russell Westbrook, Dennis Schroder, Raymond Felton

SG: Andre Robinson, Alex Abrines, Terrance Ferguson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot

SF: Paul George, Jerami Grant

PF: Patrick Patterson

C: Steven Adams, Nerlens Noel

Salary Cap Situation:

~149M of ~101M cap committed

Expiring Deals: Raymond Felton, Alex Abrines, Nerlens Noel (PO)

Bad Contracts: Dennis Schroder (3 yrs, 46M)

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