The Work Ethic of Victor Oladipo

The Oklahoma City Thunder need a number two scoring option to reduce the scoring burden on Russell Westbrook. Oladipo averaged a regressed 15.9 PPG last season but the question remains, Will Oladipo step up to the plate? Illustrated in the image above, Oladipo has been putting in work this offseason to improve his game. Could Oladipo be primed for a breakout season? Possibly. Victor Oladipo was only a 3 star recruit out of high school when he committed to indiana. The fact that Oladipo became one of the nations top players and eventually a top 3 draft pick speaks volumes of his work ethic. Although Oladipo puts in the work, it doesn’t always translate on the stat sheet as we saw last year. Victor had one of his lowest scoring seasons of his young career but also shot his highest percentage (44%) across the board; Although his stats have regressed his play has not. Here are some exciting things about victor Oladipo,

1.) Incredible athleticism and agility

2.) Scoring ability from everywhere 

3.) He has not yet hit his prime

4.) Above average defender

5.) Has the athletic potential to be a 20+ PPG type of player

Expect victor Oladipo to have a career year. early prediction,

18.9 PPG 3.9 AST 3.7 REB on 45%, 38% from deep

Should Westbrook Accept the Super Max Deal?

We all know that Russell Westbrook is both number one in the league and in our hearts but the question remains; Should Russell Westbrook take the super max deal? According to NBC sports, Westbrook can accept a super max deal worth $220 million if he were to resign a contract that would make him more than likely a Thunder lifer. There is no question that Westbrook deserves the super max for his production and his importance to both the city and the fans in Oklahoma City but that is not the topic of discussion in this article. Let us consider some variables:

1.) The West is Evolving

The western conference grows more competitive with each season making the quest for a championship that much more difficult for Westbrook and the Thunder. Let us consider these teams:

GSW – Likely to be in the WCF or the finals for the next 3-5 seasons unless they lose members of their overpowered arsenal.

SA – Chris Paul is likely joining the spurs who were already incredibly good to begin with. They pose a true threat for not just the Thunder but for the Warriors.

LAC – Good news, they are no longer contenders.

HOU – Incredibly talented team of shooters. OKC must have a true number 2 option and role players that can score from outside to beat Houston.

MIN – Many may laugh at this selection but look at their roster:

  • SF – Andrew Wiggins
  • SG – Zach LaVine
  • PG – Kris Dunn / Ricky Rubio
  • PF/C – Karl Towns
  • Lottery Selection this season

This team will be relevant and a major thorn in the western conference in the coming seasons.

UTAH – Utah has made strides but losing Hayward will be a huge blow to their title hopes.

POR – Lillard and McCollum are a dangerous duo, Portland also possesses 3 1st round selections in this years draft. They are already a playoff team and should not be overlooked.

LAL – “The Lakers really?!” , Consider this,

  • Deangelo Russell ( 2 years in )
  • Brandon Ingram ( 1 year in )
  • #2 selection in the draft

We will see another big 3 form in LA in the next few years as these guys develop

PHX – TJ Warren, DEVIN BOOKER, Eric Bledsoe, and a lottery selection. The only reason the suns make this list is due to the fact that Booker is a certified baller. Booker has scoring titles in his future and Warren has improved significantly. If they land on they draft pick this year look out in the upcoming seasons.

The west is stacked with talent. Look out east, It’s just the Cavs and a young Celtics squad with the number one pick.

Why is all of this relevant to Westbrook’s Super Max? That’s the next topic of discussion,

2.) Salary Cap

A super max puts Westbrook at 44 million annually which is almost 1/3 of the cap and 1/4 with collective bargain options. Westbrook accepting such a deal means that OKC won’t be able to afford to bring in any free agents to help him compete in a conference that is only becoming increasingly competitive. With the West evolving, Oklahoma City must adapt or simply falter. If Westbrook would be willing to take roughly 36 million annually instead of the full max then Oklahoma City would have 8 million extra for free agent acquisitions in each season. An improved supporting cast is the only way that Oklahoma City can compete for the championship in the coming seasons.

 

Bottom line, Westbrook deserves to get paid. Taking a little less would increase the team’s chances of succeeding in the future.

 

Thunder Free Agency Targets

It’s no secret that the Oklahoma City Thunder struggled to gain consistent production from the supporting cast to Russell Westbrook. With free agency rapidly approaching lets discuss potential targets for the Oklahoma City Thunder that can improve the team’s ability to better compete in the gut wrenching western conference.

Gordon Hayward – SF

Hayward is a dynamic and crafty scorer. He possesses the ability to get to the rim as well as hit shots from outside at an efficient rate. Oklahoma City desperately needs a consistent number two scorer and Gordon Hayward possesses the scoring ability needed to fill that role. Not only would Hayward’s scoring ability space the floor allowing for Westbrook to penetrate the paint with greater ease but he would also increase the production from the bench. I do not mean that Hayward will be coming off of the bench by any means, If Hayward signs in OKC expect the lineup to look something like this:

PG: Russell Westbrook

SG: Gordon Hayward

SF: Andre Roberson ( assuming retention )

PF: Damontas Sabonis or Taj Gibson if resigned.

C: Steven Adams

6: Victor Oladipo

Do you see what I mean? Hayward is a more consistent scoring option to have in the starting lineup while Victor Oladipo slides into the role of 6th man. Oladipo leading the second unit puts a player with starter talent on the court when the starters are taking a breather. Oladipo, although put into a 6th man role, will not see a deduction in his minutes. Oklahoma City needs shooters in order to play to spread the floor for Westbrook as well as players who are capable bench scorers such as Victor Oladipo in this scenario. Hayward will require a max contract; This means that if Hayward is signed it will likey be the only FA acquisition greater than minimum contracts.

Prediciton : Hayward signs max deal with Boston

JJ Redick – SG

jj

Some may ask why redick is on this list to which I will laugh and say why shouldn’t he be? Redick is a dynamic mid range and outside shooter who possess the ability to hit of the bounce and spot up. With Chris Paul likely heading for San Antonio, JJ Redick in his older age will likely not stick around. Redick can come off of the bench and be a sparkplug for the thunder when the need it most. Oklahoma City was outscored by an embarrassing margain when Westbrook was off of the court. Redick offers the ability t score and spread the floor. He is worth a 2 year deal. He will likely cost roughly 7-12 m annually depending on his willingness to compete for a ring on a non-super team.

PPG : 15.0 on 44.5% and 42.9% from deep

Hypothetical offer: 2 years 28 million.

Prediciton: Redick chases a ring and joins Cleveland, san Antonio, golden state, or Houston.

Blake Griffin – PF

blake

We have just discussed the clippers so it is only fitting that we stay in the ballpark for this next free agent. Blake griffin is a scorer and can fit the number 2 scoring niche with ease provided that he stays healthy. Health has been a major concern for Griffin throughout his career leading to some wondering if he’s worth the max deal that he will very likely require. Griffin played his college ball at the University of Oklahoma so we may see him return to the sooner state to finish his playing career. With Chris Paul likely parting from Los Angeles, I expect Griffin to test other markets. With all of this in mind there remains one major question; Does he value money more than championships? Griffin stands to make a substantially larger amount of guaranteed money by staying in Los Angeles per the collective bargaining agreement. Griffin to Oklahoma City is an option many fans in Oklahoma have been clamoring about.

Prediction: Griffin stays put in LA and takes super max deal.

George Hill – PG

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Utah Jazz

George Hill averaged 16.9 PPG quietly in Utah last season. He is an older guy who has veteran experience and can score the rock. Oklahoma City desperately needs a solid backup point guard and George Hill fits the bill. He can lead the second unit on the floor and should be affordable. Sam Presti would be wise to bring Hill in to take care of the talent discrepancy from the point guard position behind the people’s MVP Russell Westbrook.

Hypothetical Offer : 2 years 17 million

Trey Burke – PG

Burke has had a disappointing career to this point as far as expectations are concerned. Burke is only 24 and has room to improve his game. He is a better point guard than any of the backups on the Thunder roster. He will be a cheap option and an upgrade.

Hypothetical offer : 2 years + 1 team option 10 Million.

Darren Collison – PG

Collison has always been a solid point guard, as a veteran he brings offensive production off of the bench for Oklahoma City. Collison will serve as a cheaper veteran presence and an upgrade at the backup position.

Hypthetical offer; 2 years 16 million

Tyreke Evans – SG

Evans entered the NBA averaging 20 PPG and tallied an impressive first stint on his rookie deal with New Orleans. Unfortunately, Evans production has dropped significantly in the past 3 seasons, 11.6 PPG last season. Evans has shown the ability to be a good scorer and his decreased production may lower his value enough to become a key off bench asset for the thunder. Evans has been to the playoffs one time in his career in which his team was one and done. Playing for a potential playoff contender may be what he needs to ignite that spark that he once possessed for the game.

Hypothetical Offer: 2+1 Player 11m annual.

Tim Hardaway Jr – SG RFA

I’ll keep this one short. Young and a productive shooter. The only reason Hardaway will not be covered in depth is due to his restricted free agent status. 

Prediction: Hawks match

Jrue Holiday – PG

Here are the facts:

PPG: 15.4

AST: 7.3

Holiday has never played on a good squad in his career. The right offer should be enough to deter him from New Orleans, however New Orleans has the cap space to pay him if they so desire. Oklahoma City could benefit immensely from a guy who can bring 15-7 to the table. Holiday would make for an outstanding backup point guard that could lead and facilitate for the second unit. Oklahoma City must address outside shooting and bench depth this offseason to compete in the west. 

Serge Ibaka – PF

ibaka.jpg

Homecoming? Serge Ibaka was frustrated with his role in Oklahoma City before being traded in the Oladipo deal. Kevin Durant has now departed and left an opportunity for Ibaka to have an increased role in the offense if he were to return. Ibaka was is an excellent defender and a stretch 4. This spells perfect fit in the new system.

Hypothetical Offer: 3 years 45 million

Brandon Jennings – PG

Jennings makes this list as a clear upgrade at the backup point guard position. He won’t cost much either. Jennings is a good option for a backup point guard if the thunder were to sign a higher priority free agent this summer.

PPG: 7.1

AST: 4.9

REB: 2.4

Patty Mills – PG

patty

The San Antonio Spurs are targeting Chris Paul and have Tony Parker on roster. Patrick Mills looks as if he will be the odd man out if Paul joins the spurs. A productive backup point guard with the ability to hit the deep ball is exactly what Oklahoma City needs off of the bench. Patrick Mills is productive and likely affordable:

PPG: 9.5 on 43.9%, 41.3% from deep ( outstanding )

AST: 3.5

FT  : 82.5%

Hypothetical Offer: 3 years 30 million.

Prediction: If offered Mills joins OKC when and if Paul signs in San Antonio.

Dion Waiters – SG

Short and sweet – bench production for a lower price.

Oklahoma City must bring in a number two scorer and bench production to be competitive. If all else fails, the Thunder would be wise to sign a variety of shooters to come off of the bench such as the players mentioned above. We will see how Sam Presti handles this offseason.

Personal Top Targets:

Gordon Hayward

George Hill

Patty Mills

JJ Redick

Serge Ibaka

Thunder : Make or Break Year Candidates

It is no secret that the legendary Russell Westbrook lacked consistent help from his supporting cast last season. General Manager Sam Presti brought in some new faces in hopes of keeping the Thunder competitive but so far it has not panned out. Here we will discuss the players that are on make or break seasons for the 2018 campaign ( provided they are still on the roster once the season begins ).

Victor Oladipo

Many were elated when Oklahoma City acquired Oladipo last season in the trade that sent Ibaka to Orlando. A young and crazy athletic two way guard, What’s not to love? The potential to be great is there. Victor Oladipo averaged 13.8 as a rookie in Orlando and followed it up with an impressive sophomore campaign averaging  17.9. So much for a sophomore slump am I right? However, Oladipo’s production has since fallen off as he has only average 16 and 15.9 in his last two seasons. Early in his career it seemed that he was primed to become a true offensive force but he has yet to take that next step. These numbers are not bad by any means but i think it’s safe to say that more was expected of him. Many felt that his drop off in Orlando was fueled by a poorly managed front office and a loss of passion from all of the losing. With this in mind, many felt that Oladipo would be rejuvinated and open to growth once again in a new system with more capable teammates. Since entering Oklahoma City Oladipo is shooting a career high 44.2 % from the field. This leaves hope in the eyes of Thunder fans everywhere that he may be able to elevate himself to a consistent 18-21 PPG type of player that the team needs desperately. Oladipo signed a 4 year extension for 21 million annual last offseason which is roughly 1/6 of the Thunder’s cap space. With that type of cap hit more is expected from a player who possesses all of the tools to become a tremendous two way guard. Entering his fifth season, it is crucial for Oladipo to take a leap this season for the Thunder to take the next step.

Another man who has something to prove ( if he’s still on the team at the beginning of the season ).

Enes Kanter

I personally like Enes Kanter ……… off of the court, on the court he is inconsistent. Kanter is a guy who can explode and get 25 in 18 minutes thanks to his amazing ability to rebound the basketball. Although he possesses the ability to play at this level one must consider the glaring flaws in his game as well as usage. First, It’s no secret that Kanter is not one for defensive awareness. Second, For this reason Billy Donovan does not grant him ample playing time for the money that he is being paid. Kanter may be moved before the season in order to make pushes for free agent targets but as of now we will assume that he will be on the squad come opening day.  Kanter is a good player and a solid free throw shooter for his position. He’s netting about 17 million a season, here are his numbers from last season:

Enes Kanter

PPG : 14.3 on 54.5%

REB : 6.7

AST : 0.9

FT   : 78.6%

Kanter only makes this list because he has trade value. The Thunder can use him to trade up in the draft, acquire better fitting pieces, or clear cap for free agency. Kanter is a productive bench player but must take another step up in his game to get himself security on the team moving forward.

Last but not least,

Doug McDermott 

Doug McDermott has shown improvement every year since entering the league. His scoring average starting at 3 PPG as a rookie and reaching as high as 10.2 last season before being traded to Oklahoma City. He averaged 6.6 PPG after being traded to the Thunder. As valuable role playing sharp shooter, McDermott must improve on his ability to create shots since he is normally in the game with the second unit which does not have a facilitator. McDermott will be entering a contract year next offseason and must improve on his efficiency a bit. He averaged around 19 minutes a game to get his points. In 19 minutes you would like to see more than 6 points of production from one of the few snipers that the Thunder have on roster. McDermott also has trade value and good upside in his youth as he has improved his production in every season before coming to OKC. The Thunder would be wise to be patient with Doug but the decline in his numbers upon arriving may indicate that he is not a good fit. This upcoming season will be an important determining factor.

Thunder Free Agency : Stay or Go

Andre

TEAM FREE AGENCY – STAY OR GO

 

General manager Sam Presti has some important decisions to make with the offseason beginning for the Thunder. The Thunder have 5 free agents on roster but the question remains, Who stays and who goes? Here are the 5 free agents on the Thunder roster.

Andre Roberson RFA

Nick Collison UFA

Taj Gibson UFA

Jerami Grant Team

Norris Cole UFA

Let us dig into our options for each player and weigh our options for each player. 

Andre Roberson – Stay
Andre Roberson is a free agent this offseason. Roberson’s camp and the Thunder front office have unfortunately have been far apart on the numbers. No need to worry, Andre Roberson is a restricted free agent. What does this mean? This means that Oklahoma City can match any offers that are made to Roberson in free agency to retain him. It seems likely that Roberson will test free agency at this moment in time. However, the front office may want to secure him before free agency opens up. Now onto the important questions, Why should Andre stay?

Andre Roberson has developed significantly since being drafted a few years back. He has become arguably a top 10 defender at his position whose height and length makes him incredibly versatile on the defensive end. Roberson has also improved on his outside shooting abilities. He’s not adept from the outside but has improved his range significantly since entering the league. Andre Roberson is still very young and has not yet hit his peak. Do you know what this means? This means his shooting and defensive ability can only improve in the future. If he is able to develop a more consistent outside shot he may be able to develop into a lower tier Jimmy Butler type of player. Roberson has potential to be a solid 10-13 PPG type of guy, Combine that with his defensive ability and i’d say that he’s a valuable asset to the team and organization. Now to address the elephant in the room: FREE THROWS. 
Andre Roberson 

PPG : 6.6 on 46.4% Shooting,  24.5% from 3.

REB : 5.8

AST : 1.0

FT   : 42.3%

Andre has been inconsistent, his numbers in almost every statistical category have fluctuated throughout his career. The one thing that has been consistent is his improvement on the defensive end as well as his offensive aggression. Although his free throw percentage is atrocious, it is still salvageable. How so? Andre shot 70% from the line his rookie year, meaning he is capable of shooting from the stripe at a much higher clip. Roberson has more upside than any other free agent on roster. The salary cap is increasing by 15 million which makes andre affordable to retain (unless Sam Presti has other plans in free agency like maybe Gordon Hayward? That’s for another post ).

Andre Roberson will likely return of of a matched offer. I’d estimate that it will be anywhere between 8-13 m annually with the way the new NBA is. Everyone gets paid.

Early prediction: Thunder Match deal 3 years 35 million.

Next man up,

Jerami Grant – Stay

There isn’t much to say about Jerami Grant, young guy on a team contract. He’s cheap and still improving. It makes sense financially to accept his team option for 1.52 million. You have to keep the young role players around to develop in the system, especially when they are cheap.

Early Prediction: Grant’s team option is exercised.

On to the next one,

Norris Cole – Go

Oklahoma City needs a backup point guard desperately. Cam payne is gone after a less than stellar tenure with the thunder and Norris Cole was brought in for his experience with the championship with Miami. Unfortunately, he hasn’t panned out. Cole doesn’t really bring much to the table when he’s in the game. There is no need for a statline here as his play speaks for itself. He will only return if there are no better options in free agency of the draft.

Early Prediction: Cole goes back to China

How about a newcomer next?

Taj Gibson – Stay

Gibson provided OKC with valuable off bench production which was hard for the Thunder to come by this past season. A solid defensive player and a scrappy rebounder, Gibson is someone the thunder should look to retain. He is an older player who has veteran experience.

Taj Gibson

PPG : 10.3 on 51%

REB : 5.8

AST : 0.9

Defense and bench production. Gibson made close to 9 million last season and with rising salary caps he may demand more to stay in OKC. He could potentially take a veteran discount to help the team push for free agents but i’d expect his value to be in the 7-12 million annual range. His age may lower his value.

Early Prediciton : Gibson Returns to OKC on 2 year 21 million deal.

( I know what your thinking, How are we going to get free agents when we are using up cap to retain players? That is a topic for a future article that involves potential paycuts and trades to make space. Do not be surprised if Enes Kanter is moved.)

Last but not least,

Nick Collison – Go

Nick has been with the franchise his entire career and will play for a veteran minimum if offered. If Sam Presti needs a player to fill the roster then bet that collison returns, especially if the Thunder have issues with cap space. He does’t play much but sserves more as a positive energy type of guy in the locker room. He may opt to retire as well.

Early Prediction : Collison returns on veteran minimum for his final season.

 

The Thunder must make moves this offseason if they hope to compete in the ever evolving western conference and player retention is always a key part of that as far as team chemistry is concerned. Oklahoma City must sign bench scorers and a true number 2 scorer. In addition, Victor Oladipo must step up to the plate and hit the next level.