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Oklahoma City Thunder (Last Year: 50-32)
Live 2010 NBA Draft Grades:
Thunder Overall Team Grade
Sam Presti was incredibly active with his four picks, making four draft day trades. He turned No. 32 into Daequan Cook and No. 18 which was a great decision even though Cook doesn’t figure to be a rotation guy. He then took on more salary in order to get the 11th pick and the defensive-minded center the team was looking for. Oklahoma City also dealt the 18th pick to the Clippers for a future first-rounder which based on the Clips history, could be a great deal for the future. Presti also bought a pick from Atlanta to grab a foreign guy the team thinks has a promising future, and acquired cash and a late pick for their 51st pick. That must be one expensive phone bill with all the calls they were making but in the end, Oklahoma City added some depth to their wing (if Cook and Morris Peterson even stay on the roster), some nice young size and more flexibility for the future. (Grade: B+-)
11. Cole Aldrich, C, Kansas
With three first-rounders, the Thunder were rumored to be trying to move up and mission accomplished. I don’t think Aldrich is anything more than a 7-point, 6-rebound, blocked shot a night player in the NBA, but Oklahoma City needed to land a physical, defensive-minded big man which is exactly what Aldrich brings. (Pick Grade: Makes Sense)
31. Tibor Pleiss, C, Germany
Atlanta get this pick from New Jersey and then trades it to Oklahoma City. The Thunder have been high on him for some time and was even rumored to be interested in taking him at 18. Great job of jockeying down to get the guy they want while still adding Cole Aldrich. Pleiss will stay overseas and hopefully help out the Thunder in a few years. (Pick Grade: Makes Sense)
57. Ryan Reid, PF, Florida State
Never once did I, or any other draft site from what I’m reading, even consider having Reid drafted. I would be shocked if he actually made the roster after being acquired in a draft-day deal that brought him and cash to the Thunder for the 51st pick. (Pick Grade: HUH?)
2009-10 Season Summary:
Even though the Oklahoma City Thunder have the worst nickname in professional sports, they exceeded expectations to reach the playoffs for the first time since abandoning Seattle. Behind the scoring of Kevin Durant, the Thunder were one of the most exciting teams to watch during the 2009-10 season. Alongside Durant are Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook to comprise the core of a youthful team that is most definitely on the rise. Those three meshed very well this year and were able to clinch the eighth seed in the Western Conference and played a very competitive series against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Management continues to be wise in their off-season decisions, not over-paying free agents, and instead continuing to bring quality young players who fit the team chemistry and play a role alongside the Big Three. Rookies James Harden and Serge Ibaka are the perfect examples as they acclimated themselves to the team concept under NBA Coach of the Year Scott Brooks and look to be more valuable pieces for the bright future of the worst-named team in professional sports.
2010-11 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Nenad Kristic/Serge Ibaka/Cole Aldrich/B.J. Mullens
PF: Jeff Green/Nick Collison/D.J. White
SF: Kevin Durant/Morris Peterson
SG: Thabo Sefalosha/James Harden/Kyle Weaver/Daequan Cook
PG: Russell Westbrook/Eric Maynor/Royal Ivey
NBA Free Agents:
C Etan Thomas
SF Matt Harpring
PG Mustafa Shakur
PG Kevin Ollie
2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $52.3 million
2010-11 Salary Cap: $58 million
NBA Offseason Needs:
1. Muscle in the Paint- The Thunder have a dynamic scorer (Durant), an effective two-way point guard (Westbrook), a versatile big man with some range (Green) and a handful of other parts that sufficiently fill needs to make the team competitive. However, the one thing they are really missing is a player who can dominate under the basket on both ends. They need a guy to grind out the tough offensive rebounds and alter shots coming into the paint. With that addition, the Thunder will be very close to having a complete team only a couple years removed from being the worst team in the league. They have the financial capabilities to bring this type of player in via free agency or they can try and will likely target a guy in the draft with one of their first-round picks.
2. Exposure- The biggest thing the world learned in the playoffs about the Thunder is that they play fun basketball. They make games close and have great chemistry. As a fan it would be nice to get to know this team more than just the couple of times a year they play your local team during the regular season. Kevin Durant won his first scoring title and I would imagine that most NBA fans outside of Oklahoma City saw him play less than two regular season games. That’s not acceptable from a league perspective. If the Thunder are going to get some respect next season, they are going to have to get some more national air time.
3. A Scorer- As good a trio as Durant, Green and Westbrook developed into this year, other teams know that Durant is the Thunder’s only consistent scoring threat. If he’s not in the game or he’s not exploding for 35-40 points, the Thunder will run into patches where they struggle to score. If the Thunder had a second guy to take some of the scoring pressure off of Durant it would open up a ton of floor space for the rest of the team. This role could be filled by either Green or Westbrook, but until they prove they can do it consistently, the front office needs to look outside the organization to find the player who can do that. If they can acquire that player, the Thunder could vault themselves from an 8 seed to a top-three seed very quickly.
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