Beyond the cornerstone pieces, a back end roster shakeup is possible in Oklahoma City this offseason.
With enough money, assets, flexibility and needs, the Thunder is likely to add some pieces through free agency, trade or the draft.
But there’s another personnel path general manager Sam Presti can wander down. In past years, Presti stashed a pair of international players overseas, acquiring German center Tibor Pleiss in the 2010 draft and Spanish guard Alex Abrines in the 2013 draft.
Both are talented and remain well-regarded in NBA circles. They are expected to have a future in the league. But the question becomes how soon? When will Abrines or Pleiss be ready to make the jump?
“Those are things that we’ll take a look at once we get into the July period,” Presti said. “A lot of it is timing for them, what they’re thinking and then our roster construction, our resources, what we can devote to different spots on the roster.”
At this point, neither looks likely to make the leap this summer. But Pleiss seems a bit closer than Abrines.
At 24, Pleiss has been steadily developing the past few seasons. After jumping to the top Spanish league in 2012 – widely considered the best non-NBA league in the world – Pleiss bumped up all his production in his recently completed second season.
As the starting center for Laboral Kutxa, which also featured former NBA player Andres Nocioni and, briefly, disgruntled star Lamar Odom, Pleiss led the team in rebounds (5.9), blocks (1.1) and steals (0.8) per game. He averaged 12.4 points (second on the team) and shot 58 percent.
A 7-foot-2 center with a flexible enough international contract, Pleiss seems like a great candidate to become the latest in a long line of international guys to join the NBA ranks. But the Thunder’s current roster construction makes it a little trickier.
Steven Adams is clearly the starting center of the future and Kendrick Perkins is under contract for another season, with Presti revealing at his exit interview that an amnesty on Perkins was not in consideration at this time.
It remains possible Pleiss comes over as a third center, almost assuredly spelling the end to Hasheem Thabeet’s run in OKC. But it’s more likely the Thunder waits, allowing Pleiss to groom another year overseas, and then reexamines the situation next summer when Perkins will be a free agent.
Pleiss might not be coming now. But he seems close.
Abrines, on the other hand, is in the early stages of his development. He’s a 6-foot-6 sharpshooter who many compare to Rudy Fernandez, the Spanish guard who once averaged double-digits for the Blazers. But he’s only 20-years-old.
This season – which, for Abrines, is still going in the postseason – he played a key role off the bench for FC Barcelona Regal, annually one of the best international clubs in the world. On a balanced roster, Abrines averaged 7.8 points in 19.2 minutes, shooting an impressive 44 percent from three. Despite spotty playing time, he had some big games, leading the team in scoring eight times and exploding for a career-high 29 points last month.
“He’s earned his way onto the floor there in some pretty pivotal games at a very young age,” Presti said.
A good sign for Abrines’ potential future in Oklahoma City. But an NBA future that, at his age and stage of development, still seems years away.