The Oklahoma City Thunder were given just a 0.2% chance of making the playoffs after the blockbuster trades of superstars Russell Westbrook and Paul George. No one believed in this team. Except for themselves. Chris Paul led the 44-28 Thunder to the 5th seed in the star-studded Western Conference. But after a first round exit, a question many wonder is: Where does OKC go from here? Sam Presti has many big decisions coming this offseason that will determine the future of the franchise.
The Chris Paul Decision:
Oklahoma City’s biggest decision this offseason will be what to do with veteran point guard Chris Paul. Paul, 35, still has 2 years and about 85 million dollars left on his massive contract, but his value is through the roof after his rise back to stardom. Title contenders will seek Paul to be a veteran leader to be the missing piece to their championship run. The 76ers, Bucks, Lakers, and Knicks have all shown interest in Paul if he becomes available through trade. Championship contending teams would likely give up a lot for Paul in order to add another star to help their push for a title. Trading CP3 would almost certainly trigger Oklahoma City to hit the reset button and rebuild the team around young players such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort, and Darius Bazley. SGA significantly improved off of his rookie year, Dort demonstrated how good of a defender he is since being inserted into the lineup, especially with his lock-down defense against James Harden in the playoffs, and Bazley showed immense growth between the season stoppage and restart in Orlando. The Thunder are loaded with first-round picks from the George and Westbrook trades, putting them in a good position to rebuild the Thunder into a title contender again.
Thunder power forward Danilo Gallinari will hit the open market this offseason, just a year after OKC acquired him in a trade with the Clippers. Many teams will be interested in Gallinari due to his knockdown shooting at the power forward position. If the Thunder do decide to rebuild, a sign and trade situation would be ideal for the team to get assets in return for the 32 year old.
The Search for a New Head Coach
Billy Donovan joined the Thunder in 2015 after his 2 National Championship runs with the Florida Gators. Since Kevin Durant left, Donovan has not made it past the first round. Billy was a coach of the year finalist, but came up short in the race against Nick Nurse. Despite his success this past season, the Thunder and Donovan mutually agreed that it was time to part ways. Donovan will be in search of a new head coaching job, and the Thunder will search for someone to fill the void left by Donovan’s departure.
So many questions surround this Thunder team during this offseason. If the Thunder decide to rebuild, Paul, Gallinari, Adams, and Schroder all could be on their way out. The Thunder have the talent to try and run it back one more time with this squad, but trading Chris Paul, who’s value is as high as ever, may be the smart move for the team going forward. Picking up young talent through trade and drafting well could lead the Thunder back to the top of the West.