With the NBA on hiatus, we're taking a look at some of the biggest questions surrounding the Thunder this prolonged offseason. What makes Sam Presti's job the hardest in the NBA is the unexpected success his team is having.
What Presti must decide is if the Thunder's 40-24 record is something to build on or is better to trade your assets and go young. The attempted trade of Danilo Gallinari to Miami might be a sign of what the Thunder are thinking heading into the Summer.
Danilo Gallinari: Gallinari is making just north of 22-million on an expiring contract. How much he can get on the open market remains to be seen.
With the salary cap likely going down, teams that would have once sought to add Gallinari as the final piece to a championship puzzle, might not be so willing to offer the forward what he believes he is worth.
That would work in the Thunder's favor if Sam Presti wants to resign Gallinari, but what about the development of Darius Bazley? As a rookie, Bazley is showing tremendous upside, and his ability to play more than one position makes him a value in multiple lineups.
Not to mention, he's on a rookie contract, so you have him locked down for the next two seasons (provided you want to extend his options.) Plus, the most he will make at any point is 4.6-million, which should keep Clay Bennett from paying the luxury tax.
Gallinari's offensive numbers points, (19.2) rebounds,(5.5) shooting percentage, (43.9) and three-point shooting percentage (40.9) are all above his career average. The Thunder would love to have his veteran leadership, but only at the right price.
Best guess: Presti will let him walk, and ride with Bazley at power forward for the foreseeable future.
Dennis Schroder: Shroder is on an expiring contract at 15.5 million for next season, and his candidacy for sixth man of the year makes him an attractive asset to teams looking for a backup or a starting point guard. Schroder has done himself an invaluable service by thriving in the role the Thunder has put him in.
The Lakers were rumored to want him before the trade deadline, the Knicks have the assets and can clear cap space to give Schroder a long term deal. But, does Presti want to let Schroder go if there is any chance of trading Chris Paul?
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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander can start at point guard but is fitting in nicely at shooting guard. Having Schroder as your starting one if Paul is shipped off would keep some continuity in the starting lineup.
Schroder believes he can start; that opportunity may come in Oklahoma City. If it doesn't, Presti has always done his best to make players happy as long as it benefits the Thunder.
Would the Knicks part with one of their first-round picks for Schroder? It might be worth a call.
Best Guess: Schroder gets traded at the deadline next year when that expiring contract his cut in half.
Nerlens Noel: Noel inked a one year 2-million dollar deal to be Steven Adams backup. Not a bad gig but, does he want to start? He was selected sixth overall by the 76ers in 2014, and when he's healthy, he's one of the most athletic players on the floor.
Noel is a rim protector who shoots 68 percent from the field, on a rare occasion he'll shoot from beyond the arc, and he's more reliable from the free-throw line than Adams.
John Hollinger of The Athletic says, "I'll say he's back with the Thunder for $5M a year. He's a plus backup, but I don't think anybody trusts him enough to pay him as anything more than that."
Hollinger is on to something, every year since his rookie season, Noel's minutes have steadily declined (although they increased from 15 last year to 18 this season). Part of that is due to injuries he's suffered throughout his career. Plus, eight years in the NBA is hard on a 6-10 frame.
I've never seen Noel not have an ice bag on each knee or ankle after any game. Unless the Thunder feel Justin Patton can develop, Noel is your best option to back up Adams, and he can start when you need him.
If he can't play more minutes than the 18 he is now, it's hard to see him getting more than that 5-million Hollinger is predicting.
Best Guess: Noel stays and gets a bit of raise.