On June 30th at 6 p.m. ET, let the pursuit of free agents begin. There are some big names looking to sign somewhere this summer. Those include Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, and more. However, some teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder won’t be looking for a super-star player to sign.
For the Thunder, the 2018-19 season ended in a very disappointing manner. This off-season may seem less important than others in the past for the Thunder, since they aren’t trying to get a super-star to re-sign. On the other hand, this off-season is just as important as ever, as the Thunder have many players in the ending stretch of their prime.
The Thunder are already in the luxury tax, and are expected to pay around $50 million in fines if they can’t cut some cap space by the start of the season. They are going to try to pitch their culture too many free agents, in hopes that they can sign them for their Mid-Level Exception, as they don’t have much many too spend. Here are 5 free agents the Thunder should look to sign:
5. Robin Lopez
Nerlens Noel is a free agent and the Thunder will need a second-string center tremendously. Robin Lopez is a hard nosed, seven-foot tall center who spent the last few seasons with the Chicago Bulls. He brings a toughness with him that not many other players have. He averaged 9.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.2 assists this past season in Chicago. Lopez is 31 years old and could bring great veteran leadership to the team, especially off the bench. The grittiness of Robin Lopez could be just the spark the Thunder need as a whole.
Wayne Ellington is a 10-year NBA veteran who might be willing to sign with the Thunder for cheap this summer. In his career, Ellington averages 8.2 points and is a 38% 3-PT shooter. If he could knock down open threes from a Russell Westbrook drive and kick, he could be a huge gain for the Thunder. He is 31 years of age, so he would mesh great with the age of the roster. The veteran influence he would bring at the shooting guard position would be great for young players like Terrance Ferguson and Hamidou Diallo.
The most interesting target I picked to be on the list is Darius Miller. Miller appeared in 69 games with the New Orleans Pelicans this past season. In those games he averaged 8.2 points on 37% 3-PT shooting. At 29 years old, Miller is still in his prime and can still make improvements as a player. Standing at 6-foot-8 and having a long wingspan, Miller fits the mold for Thunder players. With him in the line up, he could take some pressure off of Westbrook and Paul George on offense, and cause trouble on the defensive end for the rest of the NBA.
2. Trevor Ariza
Trevor Ariza has been a very good player in the NBA for the past 15 years. Adding him to the Thunder roster would be one of the best case scenarios for OKC this offseason. He would allow Oklahoma City’s two all-stars to get the ball out of their hands, and let someone else do some scoring. Ariza is 33 years old and has been on several teams and has a wide range of experiences under his belt. He would bring a great track record of success to this Thunder team who is in a “win-now” mode and craving playoff success.
No surprise here with Wesley Matthews. The Thunder have pursued Matthews several times before. Matthews was bought out by the New York Knicks in February this past season, and the Thunder showed interest right away. Sam Presti even mentioned the recruitment of him in his exit interview. Wesley stated that Paul George and Russell Westbrook reached out to him in February about signing for the remainder of the 2019 season. There’s a reason Oklahoma City wants him so badly.
Matthews is just what the Thunder need to bring their team to the next level. He is a great shooter at 38.2% from three-point land, and he can also defend at an elite level. At 6-foot-5, the veteran player is a good sized guard which is just what the Thunder like. Wesley holds great playoff experience that Oklahoma City would love to have, as it is now or never for the success of the team.
The Thunder will most likely offer him their full Mid-Level Exception to get him to sign. If they are lucky enough to do so, we would most likely see him in the starting lineup. However, there are going to be many teams who want the dynamic veteran wing to sign with them. Matthews could take Oklahoma City to the places they want to be if he decides to join the impressive squad.
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