While we await the NBA's decision on when and how to resume the season, I thought it would be fun to take a look ahead to next year and discuss the Oklahoma City Thunder's ideal starting five. We are taking into consideration that Billy Donovan will still be the head coach because Sam Presti sees the Thunder as a young developing organization.
We're also guessing that Presti found a taker for Chris Paul's $85,000,000 contract (over the next two seasons), and since we don't know who Presti can get in return all five players are currently on Oklahoma City's roster. We took this task trying to get the best five players on the floor while developing three of the Thunder's young stars.
It's a bigger lineup, and while scoring may be down, we feel that because most of these players will have a year in Donovan's system, the Thunder should be able to fight for a spot in the playoffs.
Point Guard: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, even though he is the Thunder's leading scorer at 19.3 three points per game, and has flourished at the two, Gilgeous-Alexander is a natural ball-handler. Allowing him to run the offense will not only let him increase his assist (3.3 per game), it will also show if he is ready to take over as the face of the organization.
Gilgeous-Alexander has had a year to learn under Chris Paul; it's time to make the Thunder his team.
Shooting Guard: Despite being on a two-way contract, Luguentz Dort has started 29 games for the Thunder. Dort took the starting small forward spot from Terrance Ferguson back in January and kept making a case to stay permanently ln that role.
Dort offense is inconsistent, but he can explode on a given night, witness his 23 point outburst vs. the Kings when he went five of six from three. Dort can also guard multiple positions, and most nights will take an opponent's best player.
It's early, but we're going to go out on a limb and say the Thunder have found their replacement for Andre Roberson, now it's up to Presti to give him a full NBA contract.
Small Forward: Danilo Gallinari, this could be a bit of stretch since he is a free agent at the end of the season. However, if you can get him for between 16-17 million a year, that would be considered a bargain.
If you're going young, you will need some veteran talent to help stabilize any issues that will occur during the season. It doesn't hurt that Gallinari and Gilgeous-Alexanders have been working well since their days with the Clippers.
Having him out on the wing, shooting 41 percent from three will open up the offense for Dort and Gallinaris replacement at power forward.
Power Forward: Darius Bazley's numbers may not warrant him getting a spot in the starting lineup. However, he's 19 years old and spent a year away from competitive basketball.
Bazley's first year has been a smashing success. My biggest fear with Bazley is that he would live and die with the three, but he is showing the physicality to go inside, plus he's a handful on the baseline.
If he is going to continue to play a fierce brand of basketball, he'll need to work on free-throw shooting. Bazley is only connecting on 68 percent of his shots from the charity stripe.
Not being afraid to get fouled is an admirable trait, but it won't do you any good if you can't make it count.
Center: Steven Adams isn't going anywhere, mainly because it's hard to see anyone paying him $27,000,000 for being a throwback center. It's an expiring deal, but at the beginning of the year, it will be too costly for most teams to take a chance with Adams's limited game.
The advantage of having Adams in Oklahoma City is his leadership and familiarity with the Thunder way of life. At 26, Presti needs to decide if Adams is worth another contract.
If you can find a buyer for Adams, hopefully, it comes before Nerlens Noel has a chance to get out of town. In a perfect world, the current Thunder roster would stay together one more season. But that is not reality, and if it is time to move on from the likes of Paul, the Thunder have a good foundation, could be postseason contenders for years to come.