Now that Scott Brooks has signed a multiyear contract to remain as the Thunder's coach, what task is next for the Western Conference champions?
Is it the challenging contract negotiations with James Harden and Serge Ibaka? Is it the possibility of re-signing Derek Fisher, Nazr Mohammed and/or Royal Ivey? Is it evaluating candidates at the Orlando Pro Summer League (July 9-13)? Is it exploring this year's free-agent market? Is it securing Brooks' coaching staff?
“We've got a lot of things on our plate,” general manager Sam Presti said during Brooks' news conference on Tuesday morning. “Scott and I have had some really good discussions about the team and things that are important for us going forward roster-wise, and we will continue to have those as we head down to summer league.
“An NBA offseason is definitely a marathon and not a sprint, and we've got several things we need to do as an organization internally to make sure we're moving forward in the right direction. A big part of that is our own internal evaluation and the systems we have in place to make sure we're continuing to improve.”
A brief look at each:
Harden and Ibaka: With Kevin Durant (30 percent of salary cap) and Russell Westbrook (25 percent) already signed, the Thunder is limited in what it can offer Harden and Ibaka and still keep its full complement of signed players without exceeding the league's luxury tax level.
“We obviously are going to start having conversations with James and Serge in effort to try and figure their situations out,” Presti said.
Harden and Ibaka are signed through the 2012-13 season and will become restricted free agents (meaning the Thunder will have the right to match an offer) if an extension agreement is not reached by Oct. 31.
The rookie scale contract of reserve point guard Eric Maynor also is up for an extension.
Fisher, Mohammed and Ivey: Presti said he has explored the option of re-signing each player. Ivey and Mohammed likely would be minimum-wage offers, and Fisher would also come at a bargain.
Dallas, Miami and Chicago are said to have a keen interest in Fisher.
Because potential extensions for Harden, Ibaka and Maynor won't begin until 2013-14, the Thunder has one season to offer slightly more money to free agents, if necessary, but only for one year.
Summer league: The four primary figures the Thunder will evaluate in Orlando are center Cole Aldrich, forward Lazar Hayward, guard Reggie Jackson and first-round draft choice Perry Jones III at forward.
Aldrich, who will be going through his first summer league session, is expected to have a significant jump in playing time next season while replacing Mohammed at backup center.
Free-agent market: Former No. 2 draft choice Hasheem Thabeet has visited the Thunder practice facility. OKC also is said to have an interest in Los Angeles Lakers restricted free agent forward Devin Ebanks and former Bishop McGuinness center Daniel Orton.
Thabeet is a 7-foot-3, 263-pounder out of Connecticut who was drafted between former Oklahoma standout Blake Griffin and Harden in the 2009 NBA Draft.
Thabeet already has been with three franchises and has career averages of 10.3 minutes, 2.7 rebounds, 2.2 points and 0.9 blocks. He made $5,127,720 last season but should be available at minimum wage (around $946,000). Ebanks also would be inexpensive, but not for minimum wage. Orton would be at the league minimum.
As always, Presti was mum on potential candidates.
“As we've gone through the free-agent process, we've had several conversations about different players,” Presti said. “We're looking at evaluating all of our options. I won't comment specifically on whom we're having conversations with, but we are looking at different ways to improve the team. … But we've talked to several different guys. A part of free agency is constantly evaluating your team and making a lot of phone calls.”
Coaching staff: Assistant coaches Maurice Cheeks, Rex Kalamian, Mark Bryant and Brian Keefe have been together the last three seasons in OKC, and assistant coach/player development Maz Trakh just completed his second season. Brooks said he would like to keep his entire staff intact.
“Everybody is excited about coming back,” Brooks said. “Potentially, they're all going to get plucked away. Maurice will be a head coach again. Our other assistants will eventually become head coaches because of the success we're having.”
The hiring of assistant coaches is Brooks' responsibility. “Scott oversees his group,” Presti said. “I'm there to support him, but those are decisions he has to make.”
Presti refused to identify which assistants, if any, had expiring contracts.
Asked if he envisioned losing anyone off his staff before next season, Brooks said: “Hopefully not, but Orlando's (head-coaching job is) still open. Portland's still open. You never know if one of our coaches (will be a candidate). Maurice is obviously qualified to run an NBA team.”