Thunder roundtable addresses puzzling future
OK3 is over, or so it appears.
The Oklahoma City Thunder ended the season with a 50-38 record, a runner-up finish in the Northwest Division and a first round playoff exit in six games at the hands of the Utah Jazz. OKC now enters another tumultuous offseason this summer eerily similar to that when Kevin Durant left in July 2016 to join the Golden State Warriors.
Here at the Thunder roundtable, we discuss eight burning questions surrounding why this Thunder experiment failed and what awaits the franchise this offseason, including Paul George's free agency. Let's tip it off.
On a scale from 1 to 10 1 being the least and 10 being the most rate how disappointing the season was for the Thunder fan base.
1. What was the main reason why the Thunder underachieved and didn't mesh cohesively on a consistent basis this season?
Seth The Thunder weren't going to win the NBA title this season, but another first round exit is abysmal while touting a revamped roster tailored for a deep playoff push. Some experiments simply don't work out. Just because you make a super team or a Big 3 in today's NBA era doesn't mean winning is a given. Lacking on-court chemistry, the Thunder found that out the hard way.
Kevin This was supposed to be the year the Thunder reached at least the Western Conference Finals again after a short absence, but the trio of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, aka OK3, didn't amount to much. This season felt more like a trip to Six Flags when all the best rides are closed than a re-ascension into prominence. This can't be refunded, though.
Glen The Thunder ended up a top-4 seed in the west, but the season was expected to be so much more. I think the main reason for the disappointment was the team higher-ups were concerned more with making a splash rather than figuring out whether the new pieces worked well together. Basketball is just as mental as it is physical, and this team didn't have a great mental edge.
2. Will Paul George, an unrestricted free agent come July, stay or leave in free agency?
Seth My hunch is that George is leaving, just like Durant. Why? To join a (true) contender. Perhaps the 76ers who have boatloads of cap space. Or he can move back home and join his childhood love, the Los Angeles Lakers.
I thought George was a great addition to OKC and was a legit weapon that panned out in the gutsy trade. But if he leaves, it turns out that OKC gave up two young, talented pieces for a 1-year rental in George.
Kevin Anything is possible in the NBA, but it is hard to find a scenario that keeps PG13 in the Great Plains. We already know Westbrook probably won't try coax him to re-signing because of what was reported of Westbrook's role in Kevin Durant's free agency in 2016. The only hope OKC fans can cling to is George's postseason press conference last week, where he mentioned multiple times that it was his "first year" with OKC.
As attractive as Los Angeles might look to George, the Lakers don't present a better situation than what OKC (and Indiana last year) offers right now. I see a team like the rising Philadelphia 76ers making a run for the Cali-native and Fresno State grad.
Glen George is leaving. If you're somebody searching for your first ring, what do you see in this current team that leads you to believe it will happen here?
3. Should Thunder coach Billy Donovan, who finished his third season coaching OKC, be fired?
Seth Donovan deserves to be fired, but in the long run, it's not a wise move. If OKC does fire Donovan, don't go the college route again, even if you could somehow lure Villanova's Jay Wright or Virginia's Tony Bennett, who are ready for the next level. Donovan won back-to-back national titles at Florida, but his success in the NBA given the talent he's had at his disposal has been mediocre.
Kevin See ya later, alligator.
It is clear this Donovan experience has failed exponentially. He was a good, maybe even great, college coach, but his philosophy is not made for the NBA game. Sure, Donovan led the team to the WCF in his first year, but he, along with the team, has been nothing more than underwhelming without Durant masking Donovan's ineptitude to coach the NBA.
The Thunder never improved this year. They constantly lost games they shouldn't have. The chemistry never quite reached the jelling point.
A lot of that has to fall on the shoulders of the coach. Put the likes of Westbrook, George, Anthony and Adams on a Greg Popovich-led team, and it is unlikely that squad finishes with fewer than 48 wins, let alone a first-round exit.
Donovan will remain, however, simply because there aren't many suitable replacements that could reasonably harness the current talent on the roster.
Glen I say give Donovan one more year. I don't think he's the best coach, but if you're making a change, it needs to be a change for the better. Unless you are absolutely sure you're going to get a slam-dunk hire, you're just making a change for the sake of making a change.