Looking Ahead: Is Oklahoma City in Trouble?
This summer was absolutely wild, Chris Paul went to the Rockets, Jimmy Butler was shipped to Minnesota and Oklahoma City absolutely revamped the team around Russel Westbrook. All three teams brought in stars but not all are looking like it. The Rockets look incredible with CP3, the Wolves are finally headed for a winning season where the playoffs look likely but the Thunder are struggling in a way fans didn't expect.
Sam Presti was praised as some sort of savant general manager after he seemingly swindled the Pacers out of Paul George and followed that by acquiring "Hoodie Melo" from New York for spare parts. Both trades have since begun to sour as fans who were eating the hype around Carmelo Anthony hearing a damn hoodie have come to see that wearing a damn hoodie doesn't suddenly revitalize a guys career and maybe Russel Westbrook
's bulldog game of chasing stats doesn't jell well with two dudes who are used to being "the guy". It doesn't help that Oladipo and Sabonis are thriving in Indiana and Enes Kanter has endeared himself to the people of New York but that is just the least of OKC's worries when it comes to Sam Presti's decision to ship out what he did. Here's a look at the "what ifs" of OKC's future:
Paul George Bounces
Its no secret, Paul George has his eye on home. More specifically Los Angeles. Last year he wasn't shy about letting the world know of his desire to play in his home state for two teams that he grew up admiring. So far the way OKC has performed and his adjusted roll in their offense hasn't been enough to see him committed to the long term plan of the Thunder. Unless they make a deep playoff push and the team starts to have fun together Paul George could very likely leave, making the loss of Victor Oladipo hurt that much more.
Carmelo Opts In
Carmelo Anthony has an ETO (Early Termination Option) next year where he could choose to end his contract and test free agency, a situation where OKC would have given up assets for a one year rental that so far hasn't worked out. I don't know which is worse, Carmelo leaving for nothing or Carmelo staying. His cap hit is nearly 28 million next year and for what he has provided this season that is a hefty price tag, one that OKC may not want to pay.
Say Paul George leaves, Carmelo saddles up and stay for the money and the supporting cast remains the same. How does Westbrook feel about it? Russ had a miraculous season last year averaging a triple double but falling easily in the playoffs. Last season can't have been easy on him. He worked his ass off only for a first round exit and now his team is without the depth it had while also holding a demanding, high usage and aging Carmelo Anthony. Loyalty is great and all but so is winning and Oklahoma may ending leaving something to be desired as Westbrook watches KD and Harden thrive in bigger NBA cities.
Whether their future involves sustained success or simply a lack of regret seems to hinge on this 2017/18 season and the competitive level they can accomplish in the playoffs. If they win or make the conference finals it's easy to see them running it back and having everyone buy in. If they exit early or God forbid they miss the playoffs this summer is going to read like a whole different story.