The Oklahoma City Thunder's quiet offseason was a big topic this summer. Would they be able to get another wing to help on the perimeter or slash to the rim? Would they get some additional big-man depth? What about a trade? What could the Thunder brass do to make sure that their path to a championship doesn't get off line?
The Thunder responded by ... signing Ryan Gomes.
To many, it was a sign that the Thunder were regressing. The perch that seemed destined to be owned by OKC now looked to be occupied a bunch of newcomers, like the Rockets, Warriors and Clippers. The Thunder instead acquired and promoted young players that they knew one day would have to produce.
But would they be ready this year? So far, Sam Presti's smelling like new money.
Reggie Jackson's transition from the King of the Summer League to being Mr. 6th Man has been smooth thus far, especially now that Russell Westbrook is back in the mix. Jeremy Lamb hasn't looked too scared of the moment; although it's a small sample size, the former UConn guard has been the Thunder's best three-point shooter at 39 percent. Rookie Steven Adams has proven to be a functional big man in the NBA already when most thought he'd be a project when drafted. All three are proving that maybe, just maybe, things will be just fine in Oklahoma City.
Except, there's just one little problem: Some of the old reliables are starting to look funny in the light. Those old reliables? Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha. As Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman observed:
"Perk and Thabo Sefolosha both did not look happy on multiple occasions tonight when they were taken out of the game. Brooks definitely has some tough decisions this season. One of those guys is playing for a contract. The other is playing for pride. Take away minutes and suddenly there's a problem."
There was a time when we believed that if Perkins could just get healthy, things could get better for him and the Thunder. Now, it just looks like Perk is a shell of his former self, and even that former self is only being asked to defend the opposing team's best big man and occasionally rebound the ball. Even asking him to do that seems like a lot. When Adams has come in the game in place of Perkins, the Thunder look like a different team. There's more energy on the floor, there's not a sense of trepidation when Adams gets the ball and the Thunder somehow get even quicker on both ends.
Sefolosha, the man who was once the Thunder's "3 and D" option on the court, has seen his three-point shot go missing in the early part of the season. This is the same player who shot over 41 percent from 3-point range in the last two seasons. This year, Thabo's sitting at just 15 percent. Because of this, Derek Fisher has now become the go-to shooter off the bench for head coach Scott Brooks in crunch time. Derek Fisher.
More than anything, the early results are telling us that some of the Thunder's key role players are mightily replaceable. That doesn't even bring up their combined price tag of almost $13 million for the 2013-14 season. (This is the part of the article where you conveniently mention that James Harden's 2013-14 salary is $13.7 million. Cue to Thunder fans bashing their heads into their keyboards.)
It's silently a good problem for Oklahoma City to have. It's highly unlikely that they'll ever recover from the Harden trade, in the sense that they'll be able to get another top-10 NBA player back into their rotation. However, at some point (maybe now?), those young guns will mature into real players. Perkins' and Sefolosha's time with the franchise will come to an end, and a young team will have the chance to get ever younger and better.
Could change happen this season? Maybe it should. The chance for a championship is quite high this year, but the foundation isn't changing. It's Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and interchangeable parts. Those parts don't need to be elite, they just need to be sufficient. Otherwise, it might end up like this:
A Happy Hour drink recommendation: Salty Maple Buttered Cider. Look, it's November. It's starting to get cold outside, and for most of us, it's officially Cuffing Season. What is Cuffing Season, you ask? Courtesy of Urban Dictionary:
During the Fall and Winter months people who would normally rather be single or promiscuous find themselves along with the rest of the world desiring to be "Cuffed" or tied down by a serious relationship. The cold weather and prolonged indoor activity causes singles to become lonely and desperate to be cuffed.
You know what drink goes well during Cuffing Season? Salty Maple Buttered Cider. Women love it, and because women love it, men will love it. TGIF.