The Oklahoma City Thunder team that takes the court in October will have a lot of new faces. Some old friends we’ve gotten to know will be gone.
What happens this summer will likely shape the team, especially the bench, for years to come.
So here at InsideThunder.com we thought this would be a good time for writers Randy Renner and Jeremy Griffin to go through the team, player by player, and discuss who will be back and who will be gone and why.
We'll divide the job up over the next several days so keep clicking back for updates. First up, Part 1 of course, featuring Scott Brooks, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka.
RANDY (RETURN): Okay we might as well start with the guys who coach the players. There’d been talk toward the end of the regular season that Scott Brooks’ job would be in jeopardy if the Thunder stumbled in the playoffs. That talk got pretty loud during the Memphis series in the first round of the playoffs when it appeared the Thunder might not make it out alive.
Of course the Thunder made it past that series and into the Western Conference Finals before being dispatched by the Spurs. Thunder GM Sam Presti was pretty clear in his news conference last week that firing Brooks wasn’t anything that had been seriously considered. Nor should it have been.
Presti said he can’t rely on what happened in one game or one series, he looks at “the body of work,” as he put it and it’s tough to argue that Scott Brooks’ body of work as a head coach isn’t outstanding.
The team finished with a better record every year of Brooks’ tenure until this one and even with having to deal with injuries and distractions the Thunder finished just one game behind last season’s record.
Does Brooks need to get better? Yep. Does he know it? Yep. And he says he’ll spend the off-season doing just that.
So no changes with the head coach, it is possible though the Thunder could add an assistant coach, maybe even a veteran, to bring in some other ideas both offensively and defensively.
JEREMY (RETURN*): Ok, so a huge chunk of the Thunder Nation has been crying for Scott Brooks’ head but THEY ARE WRONG! Does he need to get better? YES! Like his team, Scott is a young coach with a long career ahead of him. Is he Pop or Jackson? NO! Can he be? Only time will tell but don’t forget it was just a few years back he won coach of the year.
While I have confidence in Presti’s commitment to Scott Brooks I am pretty confident that the Thunder will add a strong Defensive presence on the coaching staff *possibly opting to replace Assistant coach Rex Kalamian. Now, I’m not saying he WILL be replaced as the Thunder could just add to.
I can’t get Presti’s words out of my head, “We are looking to improve by adding not subtracting.” Ok, that was paraphrased a bit but that was the gist at his last press conference of the season. I honestly believe Sam Presti is a guy that holds loyalty in high regard and unless it becomes measurably detrimental to his team will do his best to stay loyal as well.
Now, on to the players and we might as well start right at the top.
RANDY (RETURN): KD still has two more years to run on his current deal. Next season he’s on the books for $18,995,624 and deserves every penny, he’s the MVP afterall. Durant had his best season in 2013-14 but his playoff numbers dropped a bit in major categories from where they were in the regular season. That’s not a big surprise because in the playoffs everyone has a chance to zero-in their game plan for ways to “slow down” Durant. In the regular season he averaged 32.0 points on 50.3 percent shooting overall and 39.1 percent on 3-pointers. In the playoffs those numbers dropped to 29.6 points, on 46.0 percent shooting overall and 34.4 percent beyond the arc.
Durant played more minutes this season than anyone else and at times, especially in the playoffs, he appeared tired. Next season perhaps a better effort should be made to manage his minutes. During his exit interview, Thunder center Kendrick Perkins said Durant should spend more time in the weight room to bulk up a little bit. Durant himself admitted he needs to return better and he needs to take better care of the basketball.
JEREMY (RETURN): KD will go down as one of the best players to EVER play the game. He has done nothing but improve every year. If he continues the improvement trend then by 2016 he might be our answer to an earth threatening rogue asteroid or the more likely scenario of the Zombie Apocalypse. He is an amazing player and obviously a guy who will always be worth more than he’s paid simply because his worth is priceless.
Randy has your numbers but the bottom line is…Kevin is here to stay.
RANDY (RETURNS): Any more questions about why the Thunder would dead set on making sure Ibaka signed an extension? That year they would have liked for James Harden to have done so as well but Ibaka is that rare player who impacts both ends of the floor. He can be dominant defensively and he can knock down open jumpers and open things up on offense for Durant and Westbrook. Ibaka enjoyed his best season yet and likely isn't yet close to his ceiling. He will continue to work to polish his game and improve what he does on offense and defense. Serge wants to be the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year, maybe next season he will be.
JEREMY (MAYBE): Serge has proven himself an invaluable part of the Thunder but I can see a scenario where the Thunder might trade him along with another Thunder player and a draft pick for Kevin Love. I know it sounds crazy and maybe it is but I’m just saying it’s possible. Personally, I hope that doesn’t happen, Serge is one of my favorite players to watch and I think he too is only getting better.
EDITOR: Woah Nellie! (as the great Keith Jackson used to say) We better stop right there for now and let everyone think about that. Air Congo for K-Love?? Holy luxury tax Batman!