As the Oklahoma City Thunder have been eliminated from the first round of the NBA Playoffs for a third consecutive year, the focus shifts to the offseason, where the franchise will again look to improve in an increasingly competitive Western Conference.
The re-signing of All-Star forward Paul George and acquisition of Dennis Schröder made the offseason of 2018 an active one for OKC. This offseason, the Thunder will have a number of financial constraints that could limit the team's ability to bolster its roster.
From the team's impending free agents to its ability to be active in free agency, here's what the Thunder can look forward to this summer...
Raymond Felton, PG, UFA
Markieff Morris, PF, UFA
UFA = Unrestricted Free Agent, RFA = Restricted Free Agent
Patrick Patterson, PF, Player Option
Nerlens Noel, C, Player Option
Andre Roberson, SG - under team control through 2019-20
Deonte Burton, SF - under team control through 2019-20
Hamidou Diallo, SG - under team control through 2020-21
Terrance Ferguson, SG - under team control through 2020-21
Dennis Schröder, PG - under team control through 2020-21
Jerami Grant, SF - under team control through 2020-21
Abdel Nader, SF - under team control through 2020-21
Steven Adams, C - under team control through 2020-21
Paul George, SF - under team control through 2021-22
Russell Westbrook, PG - under team control through 2022-23
The Thunder will select 21st in the upcoming draft. They own all of their own future first round picks.
Oklahoma City does not have a second-round pick this year.
Take a look back at the Thunder's last five first round picks:
- 2017: Terrance Ferguson (No. 21)
- 2015: Cameron Payne (No. 14)
- 2014: Mitch McGary (No. 21)
- 2014: Josh Huestis (No. 29)
- 2013: Steven Adams (No. 12)
Oklahoma City is currently over the league salary cap.
With a payroll of over $148 million next season, the Thunder are also above the $132 million luxury tax threshold. As repeat offenders, OKC stands to pay a hefty luxury tax bill.
Provided no drastic moves are made, the Thunder may only sign outside players using available exceptions or at league minimum salaries.
Biggest offseason storylines
Improving without cap flexibility
This is the elephant in the room.
Russell Westbrook is on the books moving forward for $38.5M next season, $41.4M in 2020-21, $44.2M in 2021-22 and has a player option for $47.1M in 2022-23 when he'll be 34-years-old and in his 15th season.
Paul George just finished the first year of a four-year deal, the last year of which is a player option for $37.9M.
Steven Adams, benched in the fourth quarter of Game 4 and largely ineffective down the stretch of Game 5 against Portland, stands to make $25.8M next season and $27.5M in 2020-21.
That's a ton of money tied into three huge contracts. General Manager Sam Presti is one of the most aggressive front office decision makers in the league and isn't afraid to take big swings. With those big numbers on the books and a lack of space, it will take some creativity to truly re-inforce a roster with glaring holes.
Addressing a lack of shooting
The biggest of those holes is on the perimeter, where OKC simply has not been able to find reliable shooting. Over the three-year span since Kevin Durant left for Golden State, OKC ranks 28th in the league in 3-point FG percentage.
Terrance Ferguson has shown some promise and is just 20-years-old, but outside of that, the roster has been mostly devoid of role players capable of stretching a defense.
There's been a revolving door of shooting guards in OKC with none stepping up in the way we've seen from the likes of Eric Gordon in Houston, JJ Redick in Philadelphia, Kyle Korver in Cleveland and Utah or even Seth Curry in Portland.
The health of Paul George and Andre Roberson
Paul George looked banged up over the last six weeks of the season, but answered the bell fairly well against Portland as he averaged 28.6 points per game even if he at times struggled with his shot.
Andre Roberson is one of the league's best perimeter defenders yet has not played since January of last season when he ruptured his patellar tendon. Roberson required an additional procedure before this past season and suffered another setback in November, which ultimately led to him missing the entire season.
Even if Roberson is able to return to full strength, he doesn't fix any of the shooting concerns as he is a career 26% shooter from beyond the arc.
Having Roberson back in the lineup would surely allow OKC to reach its full potential on the defensive end, but the question remains if that's truly the answer for a team that defended admirably without him this past season.