We've summed up the state of the Oklahoma City Thunder in one word, uncertainty. You can check out our state of the Thunder address in the video above as we hit on all the big topics concerning Oklahoma City over the next few months.
While the future is murky, you won't find a ton of panic inside the front office. At least not according to The Athletic. Zach Harper recently put together a "panic meter" for NBA teams out of the playoffs. And on a scale of 1-10, the Thunder is a 4.
Before we get to what Harper has to say about why Sam Presti and company are so calm in the wake of losing their head coach and figuring out what the roster will look like next season. Let's give you the criteria he is using to judge how anxious an organization should be.
- How much pressure is there to contend next season?
- Do they have injuries or injury recoveries that could keep them from those expectations, essentially acting as a metaphorical meat shield from the pressure being there?
- Are there significant members of the roster up for free agency or in danger of requesting a trade?
- Do they have a coaching issue that needs to be resolved?
- How much embarrassment happened in their ousting?
- Is there drama or supposedly quelled drama with key players we need to keep an eye on?
Presti must find a new coach and one that will mesh with what could be a young core of players. More importantly, the Thunder has to decide where they are going.
Do they want to rebuild? Or Do they want to bring back Danilo Gallinari along with Chris Paul, Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder (all under contract), and make a run at the second round of the playoff? It's hard to see them going much farther if the Lakers, Clippers, and Nuggets stay intact.
Here's what Harper says:
While the Thunder was playing with house money all season long, now things get a lot more real. The Thunder go from "Wow, look at these guys!" to finding a way to keep success while still developing. Milwaukee and New York have both been rumored to be interested in acquiring Chris Paul. Can they make it worth it to OKC to give them their leader, and what happens after they do? Can they re-sign Danilo Gallinari, or does this team lose their two veteran scorers and start heading toward a rebuild? If Gallo leaves and they move the $85 million over the next two seasons owed to CP3, will they move on from Dennis Schröder's final season on the contract? How comfortable is the Thunder with taking a step back will determine how they handle this off-season? Or maybe they just want to keep making the playoffs and keep everybody together.
Going off what's being said on social media, fans have fallen in love with this team and want to see them stay together. The problem with that thinking is you're going to be stuck in no man's land, which is good enough to get beat.
If the Thunder are going to win a championship, it means parting with fan favorites; Presti has no problem making those moves. But does Clay Bennett? Bennett wants you at the Peake buying gear and dining on overpriced concessions.
The Thunder has only missed the playoffs twice in their 12 years of existence. We've never seen rock bottom, and the great unknown is will fans support a team that struggles?
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With more than 20 years of experience hosting local and national radio shows, Erik Gee is a fixture of Oklahoma sports media. He has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder for the past eight seasons. He is also the co-host of the Pat Jones show on 97.1 The Sports Animal in Tulsa.