After all the angst and unfounded uproar, the Oklahoma City Thunder, on only the 12th day of free agency, completed its checklist of offseason needs.
And just like that, all the shouting and second-guessing this summer seems rather silly.
A day after learning it would not win the Pau Gasol sweepstakes, the Thunder snagged free agent sharpshooter Anthony Morrow, as first reported by The Oklahoman, agreeing to a deal that could pay the 28-year-old journeyman up to $10 million over three years. Oklahoma City has a history of maintaining flexibility on the back end of contracts, making it likely that Morrow’s final year is non-guaranteed.
Morrow, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard/small forward, fills a pressing need for the Thunder with his shooting ability and should bolster the team’s depth on the wing. He’s a career 42.8 percent shooter from 3-point range and connected on 45.1 percent from that distance in 76 games last season with New Orleans.
In his six NBA seasons with New Orleans, Dallas, Atlanta, New Jersey and Golden State, Morrow has never shot less than 37.1 percent from behind the 3-point line, and his consistency throughout his career ultimately is what made him so attractive to the Thunder.
Morrow holds career averages of 10.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and one assist in 373 NBA games, 129 as a starter. He’s a career 45.2 percent shooter from the field and 88.6 percent from the free-throw line.
Joining a team with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant is expected to make Morrow even more of a threat, as he’s never played with talents like the All-Star duo that garners so much of defenses’ attention for the Thunder. Their presence could result in the most open shots Morrow has ever seen.
It could be a great marriage.
Oklahoma City has become an improved 3-point shooting team over the last two seasons but, at 36.1 percent, still ranked 14th out of the league’s 30 teams. The loss of Derek Fisher, who moved on to coach New York, and the expected loss of free agent forward Caron Butler, who shot 44.1 percent from 3-point range in 22 games with the Thunder, could have been big blows to the team’s accuracy from long range.
Morrow, who started just 10 games over the past two seasons, isn’t likely to replace Thabo Sefolosha as the starting shooting guard. But as the Thunder continues to look to surround its core players with complementary pieces, Morrow will step in as arguably the best pure shooter Oklahoma City has ever had.
It took a little while longer for the Thunder to land Morrow because the team was in a holding pattern while waiting on Gasol to decide which team he would join. When it became clear Friday night that Gasol was leaning another way — he’s expected to soon sign with Chicago — the Thunder moved swiftly to secure Morrow.
Unlike other teams operating with more desperation, the Thunder’s all-in pursuit of Gasol came with a side benefit of the market settling. OKC ultimately avoided the pitfall of overpaying for a role player.
Detroit, by comparison, splurged $6 million a year for three seasons on Jodie Meeks. Orlando opened up the wallet and gave Ben Gordon $5.5 million a year for the next two years. Indiana will pay C.J. Miles $4.5 million a year over the next four years. Memphis handed 37-year-old Vince Carter $4 million per season over the next three seasons.
Morrow, in terms of shooting, has been more consistent than them all.
It was the third shrewd move of the summer for the Thunder, which has quietly and responsibly upgraded its roster without overhauling the core with sweeping changes.
In the draft, the Thunder continued to layer its roster by landing Mitch McGary, a much-needed backup power forward who eventually will replace Nick Collison. McGary will earn approximately $1.3 million in his first season and, as the 21st pick, already has shown an all-around skillset in his debut summer league that could someday make him a steal.
A week later, the Thunder netted a third-string point guard when it agreed to a non-guaranteed, one-year deal with veteran Sebastian Telfair. If he makes the team, Telfair will make the minimum for a player with his years of service, also about $1.3 million.
Blockbuster acquisitions they are not. But the Thunder already has its star power firmly in place. Other teams, remember, simply are playing catch-up.
Oklahoma City had but three needs this offseason, and in a little more than three weeks the Thunder filled those with three players who combined will earn roughly $5.9 million next season.
That’s still less than the Pistons are paying Meeks.