After starting the year off on the right foot, the Oklahoma City Thunder were bounced out of the playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. After being the majority favorite to represent the West in the NBA Finals, the Thunder are now sitting home and trying to figure things out.
The Thunder organization is prepared to go through one of the more interesting offseasons in their existence. They have to decide on who will stay and who will go, even though the rumors of Russell Westbrook being traded away are basically just that – rumors. Expect Westbrook to be back alongside Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. Meanwhile, the Thunder may have to make two major changes in their starting lineup regarding the shooting guard and center positions.
Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefalosha are on the cusp of being eradicated from the Thunder’s plans moving forward. Thabo’s minutes decreased during the playoffs along with his production on both ends of the floor. Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and Caron Butler filled the void left by Sefolosha’s abrupt departure from the OKC lineup. You’d figure that one of those players will be the leading candidates to replace Thabo in the starting lineup, but the Thunder may be looking elsewhere, especially if they decide not to bring Butler back into the fold.
Jackson on the other hand is a solid bench player, rather than starting shooting guard material. There’s also the fact that he played point guard his entire career. Although, Jackson did impress all throughout the playoffs with his play, I’d expect the Thunder to keep him on the bench to give OKC a much-needed spark on their weak bench rotation. What the Thunder may need to do is bring in some more veteran players. Perkins has to go, so they’ll need to replace his off-the-court leadership and on-the-court grit.
Steven Adams should be the Thunder’s starter to begin the 2014-15 NBA season. Adams proved to have greatly improved since the beginning of the year with some solid performances in the NBA playoffs this year. He even logged in over 40 minutes in one game, proving to be a valuable piece of Scott Brooks‘ plans moving forward.
Plenty of people are calling for Brooks’ job, but that just is not going to happen. The Thunder’s playoff woes had nothing to do with coaching, and all to do with a lack of production from the bench and Durant not playing up to his potential. Durant mangled defenses in the regular season en route to his first MVP Award. The Spurs held KD in check rather easily, and took his mind out of the series early. Durant’s confidence has been shaken up numerous times in the playoffs thus far in his career, but that’s all a part of being young. It’s no wonder some of the greatest players of all-time didn’t win championships early in their careers. Durant is a year or two away from becoming unstoppable on both ends of the floor and being a constant force in the regular season and playoffs.
The Thunder may have some changes to be made, but they’re pretty small adjustments. Their championship pieces will remain intact for some time, but the right changes still need to be made in the offseason for them to get over the hump in the playoffs next year. Those changes will come in the NBA Draft and free agency. I personally believe that next year’s Thunder team will have the best season since the franchise came into the league in 2008. It is only a matter of time before the Thunder start reeling off championship after championship.