The Oklahoma City Thunder have overachieved this season. Their upcoming offseason decisions will show how much they believe in their core.
On the surreal night of March 11, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s season became defined by Rudy Gobert’s positive coronavirus test, their suspended game with his Utah Jazz and the league-wide suspension that followed. Before that night, OKC’s surprising performance was among the best stories of the 2019-2020 season.
With 18 games left in their regular season, the Thunder were on pace to beat their preseason win projection by nearly 20 games and finish fifth in the Western Conference. Instead of the 25th-best record in the NBA, they were tied for 10th. This begs the question: why rebuild when you are a contender (or something close to it) whose two best players are in their thirties?
The historically underrated Chris Paul was playing far better than anyone predicted. Danilo Gallinari, always great when healthy, was on pace for his highest minutes played total in seven years. Steven Adams, who thrived alongside Russell Westbrook for his first six NBA seasons, adjusted quickly to two new lead guards and was having his best season yet.
Second-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the best young players in the NBA. SGA plays like he’s 31 rather than 21 (in a good way). He was already a clever player and he hit the mentorship jackpot when he and CP3 were traded to Oklahoma City last summer.
In addition to SGA, the Thunder have an astounding stockpile of draft assets, including as many as 15 first-round picks over the next seven years. SGA and some of these future picks (they can’t possibly keep them all, right?) will be their long-term foundation. First, they need to decide what to do this summer.
In order of 2020-21 salary, they’re set to return seven players who played 500 or more minutes:
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
- Chris Paul
- Dennis Schröder
- Steven Adams
- Terrance Ferguson
- Darius Bazley
- Luguentz Dort (G League two-way contract)
Dort needs to have his two-way contract converted in order to play for them in this year’s playoffs. Between his high ceiling, low pay, and the defensive assignments he’s taken on (see here), it’s fair to assume he’s earned a roster spot at least through next season.
With so many other roster spots to fill, we’ll start with their three unrestricted free agents.