2013 Oklahoma City Thunder

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Oklahoma City Thunder (Last Year: 66-20)

2012-13 Season Summary:
After finishing with the best record in the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s chances of winning the NBA Championship came crashing down when Russell Westbrook tore his meniscus in the team’s opening round playoff series against the Rockets. Without Westbrook and or James Harden, who was dealt prior to the start of the season, Kevin Durant simply couldn’t do it all to carry the Thunder back to another NBA Finals, so the team was upset by the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round.

Durant and Westbrook were the top scoring duo in the NBA having to pick up the scoring slack left behind by Harden. Durant was nothing short of amazing as his superstardom continues to skyrocket, while Westbrook’s play-making skills as a point guard are among the top in the league. Serge Ibaka also improved his offensive game to help round out his all-around abilities as a shot blocker and rebounder. Kevin Martin came over in the Harden deal and replaced him as the team’s sixth man. Though Martin lacked the punch of Harden, he played his role on the team well.

The rest of the Oklahoma City roster was made up of role players. Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison provided size and toughness, but little offense in the paint, while Thabo Sefalosha was, once again, the team’s top perimeter defender. Derek Fisher was brought back late in the season because of his leadership and 3-point shooting, and proved to a vital addition once Westbrook went down. The steady development of Reggie Jackson provides promise for the future so much that the Thunder dealt Eric Maynor to Portland. Jeremy Lamb, another key cog in the Harden deal, was seldom used and spent most of the season in the D-League as did fellow first-round pick, Perry Jones.

2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Kendrick Perkins/Hasheem Thabeet

PF: Serge Ibaka/Nick Collison

SF: Kevin Durant/DeAndre Liggins/Perry Jones

SG: Thabo Sefalosha/Jeremy Lamb

PG: Russell Westbrook/Reggie Jackson

NBA Free Agents:

SG-Kevin Martin (UFA)

PG-Derek Fisher (UFA)

SG-Ronnie Brewer (UFA)

C-Daniel Orton (UFA)

2013-14 Team Salary: Approximately $66.1 million

NBA Offseason Team Needs:

1. Bench Scorer: With Martin a free agent and James Harden not walking through the door every again, the Thunder need to find a bench scorer. The tea, will likely try to retain Martin for a reasonable rate, but he should be able to find a bigger contract than Presti will be wanting to pay. With little cap flexibility, finding a veteran with the mid-level exception seems like the route Oklahoma City must take to fill this need.

2. A Big: Perkins was awful in the postseason and Thabeet is not the answer inside, so the Thunder should look to use one of its first-round draft picks (No. 12 or No. 29) to find a potential big man of the future. Oklahoma City can skate by for now with who it has since Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison are capable of playing the five with Kevin Durant moving up to the four.

3. Use Assets Wisely: With three of the top-32 picks in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Thunder have some flexibility; whether it is packaging picks to move up, drafting and stashing a European prospect, or holding still and hoping to find a potential role player or two.

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