General manager Sam Presti has heard your pleas, Thunder fans, and help is on the way. Nenad Krstic could be in a Thunder uniform before the New Year, and the 7-foot center will be a much-needed boost to what has been an underachieving frontline. In Krstic, Presti is bringing in a low-risk, high-reward player who, at age 25, can help now and in the future. With a salary believed to be worth $4.7 million in the first season, $5.2 million the second and $5.6 million in year No. 3, Krstic’s contract is a relatively cheap deal. The move allows the Thunder to be more competitive over the final 50-plus games while maintaining the all so important financial flexibility its constructed for the future. Krstic, if he accepts the Thunder’s offer and New Jersey declines to match to retain its restricted free agent, would give the Thunder a big man who can score consistently and take some pressure off Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. Krstic, during his best days with the Nets, averaged 16.4 points and 6.8 rebounds, 7.4 more points than the Thunder’s highest scoring big man. His shooting ability will provide the Thunder with a post threat who can stretch the defense with his above average mid-range game and another option for coach Scott Brooks to run pick and roll and pick and pop plays with. Krstic’s back-to-the-basket game is not great but must be respected, sometimes to the point of commanding a double team. And Krstic is savvy and skilled enough to find the open man once doubled, which would only give the Thunder more good looks at the basket. The main beneficiary of Krstic’s offensive skills should be Westbrook, the rookie point guard who has proven to be the Thunder’s best penetrator. With Krstic stretching the defense, Westbrook would face much less resistance at the rim on drives and should see a spike in his 38 percent field goal shooting. Krstic also gives the Thunder another battle-tested veteran, one who made the playoffs in three of his four years in New Jersey and advanced to the second round twice. Once Krstic learns the Thunder’s playbook and readjusts to NBA game speed after playing in Europe this season, the Thunder’s rotation will immediately become much more dangerous and versatile with a reliable true center. If the Thunder does sign Krstic, expect him to step in as the starting center before the All-Star break in mid-February and snatch up leftover minutes generally reserved for injury-prone center Robert Swift and the inconsistent Johan Petro. With Green now starting at power forward, Brooks would then have a tough choice to make between veterans Chris Wilcox, Nick Collison and Joe Smith for reserve minutes. But that’s one of those good problems to have.
Up next for the Thunder
→Tuesday: at Atlanta, 6 p.m., FSOK (Cox 37) →Friday: at Detroit, 7 p.m., FSOK (Cox 37) →Saturday: at Washington, 6 p.m., FSOK (Cox 37)