By Randy Renner
Basically, Thunder GM Sam Presti’s a pretty happy guy. So for all you haters out there Scott Brooks isn’t going to be fired and Kendrick Perkins isn’t going to be amnestied.
Now that that’s out of the way, some details.
Considering everything the Thunder went through this season with various injuries, uncertainties and distractions along the way to win 59 regular season games and make it to the Western Conference Finals after winning a fourth straight Northwest Division title, “obviously it was a great year,” Presti said. “It didn’t finish the way we’d hoped but only one team can win and we respect that. We’ll never take for granted the opportunity to raise a banner in Chesapeake Arena as we did for our fourth division title and we won’t take for granted 59 wins.”
Presti did note the Thunder’s team defense fell off in the second half of the season.
“After the All-Star Break we struggled a little bit defensively,” he admitted. “When we’re holding teams to 102 points per 100 possessions we won 92 percent of our games (44-4) so that’s an important number for us.”
Presti and his staff will look at everything in the off-season, things that worked and why and things that didn’t and why.
As for Brooks, who continues to be criticized for offensive problems in the half court, managing rotations and what appears to some to be failures to make adequate in-game adjustments, Presti deflected that and seemed to clearly put his support in Brooks’ corner.
“Scotty I think did an excellent job. I understand we all have a tendency to look at the last game or the last series and I respect that. But I can’t do that, I’m looking at the body of work.”
And again, with everything this team went through before and during the season, there are those who’ve said this was probably Brooks’ best coaching job.
“Scott, like every other person in this organization is going to look at ways that he can move the needle and grow (as a head coach). You have to look at yourself critically every year and that starts with me and Scott will do the same thing and come back a little bit better.”
As for Perkins, Presti again pointed out the value the big fella has to the organization and it goes far, far beyond what shows up on the stat sheet and there continues to be no thought of using the amnesty provision to get out from under the last year of Perkins’ contract which will pay him a bit more than $9 million.
“As we’ve said before it’s not something that’s been considered to this point. Kendrick is someone who has contributed a lot to our success. Quite honestly we’d be having this press conference a lot sooner if he was not part of the organization when we took the floor against Memphis.”
Perkins was instrumental in helping secure that series victory and as Steven Adams develops Perk has been just as important.
“There’s certain things he’s exceptional at. I think he’s been wonderful for Steven Adams and has had a lot to do with Steven’s growth, especially in the postseason just with how he studies and plays position defense.”
So count on Perkins to be back and as I’ve written and said before I absolutely think he should be.
The Thunder also will be dealing with several other issues. Reggie Jackson’s contract extension for one and Presti said he and Jackson’s agent will talk as soon as allowable.
“Reggie is a guy we think highly of,” Presti said. “We are able to have conversations with him starting July 1st and generally these (extensions) don’t happen in July and the trend now is they don’t even happen by October 31st (the deadline to get an extension done). But we are going to make a concerted effort to work something out with him and if that doesn’t happen we’ll pick the conversations up the following summer and see where that leads us.”
Where it would lead Jackson is to probably test the waters of restricted free agency. The Thunder would have the option of matching any offers Jackson gets. Reggie has repeatedly said he’d like to be a starter and preferably a starting point guard in the NBA. The Thunder already has a pretty good point guard but Jackson will likely be given every shot to be the starting shooting guard and perhaps that will trip his trigger.
As for a James Harden type of situation developing where the Thunder would try to work on trading Jackson, Presti said, “that’s not something we’re considering.”
As for the futures of Thabo Sefolosha, Caron Butler and Hasheem Thabeet, who are all free agents now, “we will have conversations with all of them come July,” Presti said. “I’m sure they’re gonna have a lot of opportunities and we will as well.”
Right now though it seems doubtful the Thunder would bring back any of the three however, that could change depending on what happens with the draft and what other free agents might be out there that the Thunder might be interested in.
Oklahoma City also has a couple of previously drafted players stashed overseas. Tibor Pleiss is a center and Alex Abrines is a shooting guard. Pleiss could be ready to make the move and could replace Thabeet. Abrines likely needs another year or so.
The Thunder have two picks on draft night, numbers 21 and 29 and Presti said the team wouldn’t hesitate to make a deal for one or both of the picks if the player (or players) they like for that spot are already gone.
“We have to figure out where the value is,” he said. “We have to figure out how best to use those tools to improve the team now or in the future. I wouldn’t rule out anything and I wouldn’t rule out moving those selections either depending on what’s sitting there.”
And then Presti gave us a hint at how he and his staff approach things like the draft.
“I think there’s a big difference between picking a player and selecting a player. When you’re picking you’re picking from not necessarily things you want. Selecting to me is when you’re selecting something from a pool that you value. And we wanna be in a position to select. If we’re in a positon simply to pick then we’ll probably move (trade) the pick.”
Between now and draft night (June 26th) the Thunder will finalize that group they hope to select from and between now and then we here at InsideThunder.com will be working up a list of possibilities too.
Should be a busy and interesting three weeks.