Sports Illustrated: "Thunder Should go for it, Instead of Rebuild"
Oklahoma City Thunder fans are in love with their team's roster. Given the choice of keeping the band together or rebuilding for a future run like Westbrook and Durant had, fans would pick the former.
You can't blame them, at 40-24 Oklahoma City is overachieving, and Chirs Paul is not only the most clutch player in the NBA, but he's also the most likable. Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated says, "for [Sam ]Presti, the Thunder, OKC fans, and the NBA, the ideal scenario should be the Thunder trying to go for it instead of feeling like a rebuild is the best option."
But, even Nadkarni admits that for Presti to put his instincts aside would mean he would have to be comfortable with the 35-year-old Paul being his point guard for the next two seasons. It's not Paul's age that is the issue; it's his contract, and with the salary cap expected to drop and the Thunder looking to get out of the luxury tax trading, Paul is almost a certainty.
Nadkarni whishes there was an incentive for the Thunder to use their draft picks to add more veteran players and give Paul another shot at winning a championship. He would also like to see markets like Oklahoma City improve without hitting "rock bottom."
As long a Presti can stay one or two steps ahead of the rest of the league, the Thunder are in good hands with whatever roster changes they have to make. If the NBA wants to help small-market teams keep their teams intact, then they must find a way to make going into the luxury tax less painful for owners like Clay Bennett.
The Thunder have proven they are willing to spend, but only if there is a legitimate chance of competing for a ring. Jeanie Buss may not be happy about having to pay more for a star-studded roster than Bennett, but the Lakers can absorb the tax hit a lot easier than the Thunder.
If the NBA wants competitive balance, they are going to have to tip the scales to help Oklahoma City, Memphis, and Orlando more than Boston, New York, and Dallas. Stars will still be attracted to the bigger markets for branding opportunities, but if the league wants feel-good stories such as the Thunder, then give Bennett reasons to keep a player like Paul instead of 85-million of them to let him go.