If you have been paying attention to the NBA at all in the past year, you know that the Summer of 2010 will be a big one. Let's look at what the Summer might look like for Oklahoma City.
Team Free Agents:
Oklahoma City has three players who will become Free Agents after this season. Shaun Livingston, Kevin Ollie, Etan Thomas, and Thabo Sefolosha (Restricted). Barring any problems or moves this season, the Thunder will likely try to resign Livingston and/or Sefolosha. Both players have showed that they are valuable pieces to this team, and who stays will depend on what Oklahoma City can get in the draft. Thomas and Ollie were brought in to mentor the younger players, and should part ways with OKC next Summer.
That means that Oklahoma City will have 14 players on the roster, including two First Round Draft picks.
Free Agent Needs:
First of all, there are a lot of "ifs" that go into this conversation. If James Harden establishes himself at SG, and if Russell Westbrook continues to develop into the Thunder's great PG, then there will be two glaring problems that can be addressed via Free Agency.
Oklahoma City is small at Power Forward, because they have a Small Forward playing there right now. Jeff Green did a great job at PF last season, but the Thunder need more size at Four. This would also let Green come off the bench behind Kevin Durant, a role that would allow Green to score in droves against other second team SFs.
There are a few routes that the Thunder could go. The top PFs will be Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki seems to be too old to fit into the ownership group's vision of the team, Stoudemire is an unlikely fit due to the style of basketball he plays. So that leaves us with Bosh and Boozer. Rumors of Boozer to Oklahoma City were whispered this entire offseason, and are likely to stop as the Summer of 2010 approaches. It is a well known fact that Bosh wants to be on a contender, and if OKC challenges for a playoff spot this season, it could be enough to convince Bosh to consider coming to the Sooner State.
Final Verdict: Toss Up. Boozer and Bosh would be a great fit with the Thunder, but Bosh gets a slot nod due to being more of a shot blocking presence.
The other glaring area of need is the Center position. Baring a break out year with Byron Mullens, Oklahoma City will look to free agency to improve their interior defense. Sadly, there might not be much for Oklahoma City to choose from. Most of the Free Agent Centers are either too old (Shaq, Marcus Camby) , injury prone (Yao Ming, Tyson Chandler, Jermaine O'neal), or offer little improvement to what OKC already has (Mehmet Okur). So that leaves Oklahoma City with Brad Miller or Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
As with Bosh and Boozer, Miller and Ilgauskas bring oddly similar arguments. Ilgauskas is the slightly better career scorer (14.3 to 12.1) but their rebounding numbers are almost identical (7.9 to 7.8). Where Ilgauskas is more of a scoring minded Center, Miller has averaged three assists per game during is career.
Final Verdict: Brad Miller. Brad Miller is a more team minded Center, and he takes better care of the basketball. While he wouldn't be a huge upgrade over what the Thunder already have, he would bring a stronger rebounding presence.
Next summer may be the biggest Free Agent Summer in a long time, and a few small acquisions could go a long way towards improving this Oklahoma City team.
(Stats from NBA.com, Photo from ESPN.com and Free Agent List from ESPN.com)
This Is Thunder Basketball
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