Is the Thunder prepared to go into the luxury tax this offseason? If so, by how much? If not, why not?
We will continue to look at and evaluate all of the opportunities that present themselves to our team. As a result of our commitments to our core players, the organization will ultimately end up as tax payers. However, given that our goal is to have a team capable of contention for a sustained period of years, when to proactively enter the tax and how realistic it is for a team in Oklahoma City to sustain successive taxable seasons will have to be carefully examined.
Is the amnesty clause an asset this team might use this summer, and how would it help or hurt the roster?
The amnesty clause is not something we have deeply considered as an organization. We understand that there is a lot of misinformation as to its intent, and as a mechanism. The majority of the teams that have used it have done so when they were under the salary cap or when they have exceeded the luxury tax to a degree in which the player's salary is less expensive than that of the luxury tax penalty itself. We do not fall into either dynamic, therefore it has not been something deeply explored by our organization.
You potentially have two first-round picks this year, as well as the second pick of the second round. Is there room on the roster for all three picks? If not, what should we expect to happen with the others?
The draft presents all kinds of opportunities, we will explore all of them. Our decisions will be driven by who is available, and the value we place on them fitting with our team, organization and community. We will remain open-minded about the different ways we can utilize our draft picks but also recognize that teams that sustain success over time are built with a consistent stream of players that were drafted and developed internally.
How much were you able to evaluate the team and individual players without Russell Westbrook?
The team we finished with was of course not the team we are, but that is part of sports. We all face things that are out of our control but we still need to deal with them by coming to work the next day and maintaining our standards to the best of our ability. Given the limited amount of time that our players and coaches had to adjust to the absence of Russell, I think they did an excellent job of working to maximize the group in place and we need to continue to look to do that when the next unforeseen circumstances or situation arises in the future.
What's the biggest offseason need for this team?
First and foremost, we need to maintain the efficiency that has been developed on both ends of the floor. From there I think we have made strides in reducing our turnover percentage, while also increasing our assist percentage across the board, but we need to continue to build on the progress of this season because that will only raise the efficiency that we have demonstrated that we are capable of. Whether we do that through outside acquisitions or internally, these will be key aspects to our improvement next season.