Monday Morning Mailbag
In our first-ever Thunder mailbag, forward Jeff Green takes the focus of 40 percent of this week’s questions. That’ll happen when you’re shooting 37 percent in January.
But should Green be sent packing? Can the Thunder acquire a center? And what, if anything, can be done about the Thunder’s dreadful 3-point shooting?
We answer those questions and more in our new Monday Morning Mailbag.
If Jeff Green opts to test the free agent market, which available players do you think would be a great fit for OKC either as a starter or reserve for Ibaka? — Kyle.
Green will be a restricted free agent this summer. So he’s going to see what offers are out there. At this point, it’s all a matter of how much another team is willing to pay. If no team throws an absurd amount of cash at Green, he’s likely to return. But if a team comes in with a high-dollar offer, both Green and the Thunder have a decision to make. Green must decide whether to take the money and run or to take less money to continue to be a part of something that’s building from the ground up. And the Thunder must decide whether it can afford to keep Green around and risk his bloated contract potentially blowing up the books. It’ll be an intriguing situation. There are a lot of hypothetical/fantasy options out there. You don’t need me to feed that beast. But if Green bolts, the truth of the matter is the Thunder might have to just plug in Ibaka and move forward. Every quality big man carries a big contract. And with the Thunder having so many young players coming up for contract extensions (not to mention the potential for more restrictive rules in the next collective bargaining agreement possibly hindering teams), this franchise can’t risk bringing in a pricey big man if it comes at the expense of retaining the current core. Unless there is a super value somewhere, which rarely exists and often is in the form of a rugged, more one-dimensional player when he is out there, my gut says the Thunder marches on with Ibaka while getting Cole Aldrich ready for duty.
What does Thabo’s future with Thunder look like? I feel like if/when Harden cracks the starting lineup that Thabo playing against second units is pretty pointless. — Andrew.
I wouldn’t call it pointless. Every team will always have a need for defenders, no matter how his minutes come. Thabo’s got three years remaining on his contract, and I suspect he’ll be around for the duration of this deal — unless of course some opportunity comes along that is too good to pass up. But Thabo is still just 26, and the economics of his deal work incredibly well for the Thunder going forward. That’s important to remember as extensions for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook begin to make their way onto the books. If Harden ever takes over the starting spot from Thabo, the Thunder will still have tremendous flexibility when looking to match up with opponents if Thabo is coming off the bench. Look at how players like Matt Barnes, Mickael Pietrus and James Posey impacted games on the defensive end in the playoffs over the past few seasons. Of course, what separates Thabo from that group and others is perimeter shooting. If Thabo ever gets that part of the game down, he’ll be a great asset to have coming off the bench for 15-20 minutes, especially in future postseasons.
Is it possible that Brooks refuses to change his lineup mid-season in order to appease his starters’ egos? After all, Green has been starting/starring way longer than Ibaka has even been playing basketball. Is Brooks afraid of the effect being benched would have on Green’s effectiveness (not that he’s all that effective to begin with lately…)? Or is he just willing to let Green play himself into a much smaller contract next year? — Peter.
I get the feeling Brooks genuinely believes Green is simply better than Ibaka. And while it’s currently hard to make that argument based on recent production and impact, I can’t say that I’m ready to disagree with that belief. Earlier this season Green had the benefit of clearly being the more consistent player between the two. And every coach at every level in every sport loves players they can depend on. But even that edge is rapidly disappearing for Green. For now, Brooks has the team’s winning record to fall back on as reason to not shuffle the starters. On paper, when a team is 13 games above .500 you think things must be going pretty well. But the team’s issues are clear for everyone to see, and it seems to be just a matter of time before they catch up to the Thunder. I’m not blaming that all on Green. Not by a long shot. Let’s say Brooks did insert Ibaka into the first five. It’s then highly likely that we’d be talking about another set of issues. Ibaka in the starting lineup is not the definitive answer. And Green, despite his poor production of late, is not the root of the team’s problems. To me, what Brooks is doing with players minutes is a great way of managing the game. Play the players who are playing well, and sit whomever is stinking it up.
What is the trade deadline date this year? Does Presti put Uncle Jeff on the trade block or make some other move for a legit center? — Nathan.
The trading deadline is Feb. 24. I highly doubt we see Green traded mid-season, though. The Thunder wants to keep him. The team, at all levels, loves what he brings to the table. Only way I see Green getting traded is in a sign-and-trade over the summer. And that scenario is a last resort the Thunder could turn to only in an attempt to get something in return if it is about to lose Green outright to a higher bidder. But I don’t see that happening. I also don’t see any plausible scenarios in which the Thunder can acquire a “legit” center. Everyone says this team needs a big man but nobody ever talks about how actually getting one is much easier said than done. There are about 15 “legit” centers in this league. And I’m probably being a bit generous. GMs don’t dangle those guys as trade bait. Besides, let’s not be so quick to write off Aldrich. He might turn into the exact low-post defender the Thunder needs.
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