A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Danger of Too Much Patience

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In a few short years the Oklahoma City Thunder have become the belle of the ball. With two superstars under 24 in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and other young talent like Jeff Green, Thabo Sefolosha, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Eric Maynor and Cole Aldrich they appear set for a decade of contention which has drawn the envy of most fans around the league

Just not this year. Oh they’re good. On pace for a 55 win season or so. But they lack a true interior defensive and rebounding presence. A few more playoff dependable veterans would help a playoff run too.

Sam Presti seems content with this not being the Thunder’s year. His mantra has always been looking at the future over the present and choosing draft picks and cap flexibility over expensive veterans – and that eventually players like Ibaka, Aldrich, and Harden will provide the interior defense and supporting scoring needed.

But should he give up on this year? Durant and Westbrook could be the best two guys on a championship team right now. They’re that good. To sacrifice a year of their primes is giving up a lot. Presti should double take on what he’s giving up. Years of possible contention with prime superstars is the scarcest of resources. Ask Jazz and Suns fans. You always want more.

The future could hold problems for the Thunder they presently avoid. Injuries could befall them like it has the Portland Trailblazers recently. The salary commitment to their young talent is about to balloon and squeeze their depth and flexibility. Increased salary means depreciated value to the supporting young guys and less expiring contracts to facilitate deals with – all their trade chips they’re loaded with now will disappear. Perhaps most importantly is the Miami Heat factor. The Heat are already dominating and have no PG, C or bench. The Heat with depth may make the 2012, 2013, and 2014 titles unattainable. Thus giving up on 2011 could end up a very regrettable decision for the Thunder.

The Thunder can make a contender right now by shopping Harden, Sefolosha, Ibaka, Aldrich, Maynor and picks for an interior defender and a veteran bench. Those are the final pieces and OKC easily has the chips to get them. Anderson Varejao is available. Nene Hilario will likely be if Melo is traded. Ben Gordon and Stephen Jackson are available. These are the players who can take them over the top. With big contracts they wouldn’t take much to get either – leaving young assets to spare for the Thunder

Tradeable young players differs the Thunder from teams like Utah and New Orleans. The Hornets and Jazz have had 50 win teams on the fringe of contention the last few years, but a lack of young assets and bad contracts and luxury tax issues in their place made trades difficult. If the Thunder wait too long they will find themselves in a similar situation. Their young assets will turn into paid veterans, unmoveable contracts will replace expirings. And the oppurtunity to make the leap won’t be there.

Thus the patience that has been their strength and calling card may end up their undoing.

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Written by jr.

January 4, 2011 at 9:13 pm

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