Westbrook, George Bring the Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder had what most saw as a disappointing season in 2017. They won only 47 games, one more than the previous season, and were sent home in just the first-round by a rookie-led Utah Jazz. With Paul George resigning for the long haul, Carmelo Anthony departing soon and various offseason moves, the future is looking up for Oklahoma City.
Paul George: All-Star forward Paul George has officially signed his four-year $137 million contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder. George resigning officially creates a new duo in the NBA. The Thunder will have both former MVP Russell Westbrook and George for the long haul, with each signed on to the Thunder for the next four years. While Westbrook and George didn’t seem to mesh quite as well as most had hoped on the court, the future is bright for the all-star pair. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook won only 23 games in their first season together, before rattling off an impressive run with Oklahoma City that included a Finals appearance. Westbrook and George will now have at least three years together, and the two will surely improve to a deadly duo in the Western Conference over the years.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) July 15, 2018
George’s signing is monumental for the small-market franchise. Markets like New York, Miami and especially Los Angeles have largely dominated the free-agent market for years. George opting to stay in Oklahoma over his hometown of LA is huge not only for the future of OKC, but for all small markets in the NBA. If Oklahoma City can persuade someone like George to stay, the chances of it bringing in a third star to help Russell Westbrook and George are starting to look significantly better.
Carmelo’s Departure: Carmelo Anthony and the Oklahoma City have mutually agreed to find a new home for the 10X All-Star. Anthony’s test run in OKC proved to be a disaster for both Anthony and the Thunder. Anthony put up the worst number of his career in almost every category, with his points per game dropping from 22.4 to 16.2. His field goal percentage fell from .433% to .404%, and his assists per game took a hit as well. While gambling for Anthony was probably a good idea, both parties will be happy to part ways. Parting ways with Anthony is good for the Thunder for numerous reasons. Anthony averaged 15 shots a night for OKC. A majority of those shots would go to Westbrook and George, and Thunder fans cant be too upset about that. Getting rid of Anthony’s virtually untouchable contract will be a load off the franchise’s mind, and if we can grab a couple of role players in the process, the Thunder will be on track to improve next season.
Offseason Moves: The Thunder have made several moves this offseason that, at the moment, seem like they will benefit the Thunder greatly. The Thunder’s next biggest signing behind George was the resigning of forward Jerami Grant. He has been a steadily improving player for OKC, and could be thrust into a starting spot next year with the inevitable departure of Anthony. The Thunder have also resigned backup point guard Raymond Felton, who, much to the surprise of everyone, gave Oklahoma City solid minutes last season in the backup role. The most recent offseason move is the acquisition of former lottery Nerlens Noel. He was most likely acquired to fill the backup center hole, but could give the Thunder great minutes as he shows potential in his athleticism and stellar defense. The Thunder also drafted the likes of Devon Hall, Kevin Herney and Hamidou Diallo, who could all fill various roles for the Thunder throughout the season.
The Thunder will almost certainly be better than last season. Aside from Anthony leaving, the overall team chemistry will only continue to improve. Look for the Thunder to be in the mix for the top spot in the Western-Conference next season.