Oklahoma City Thunder: With free agents in a holding pattern, OKC may choose to stick with Andre Roberson

The Thunder is not just turning down free agents because of costs. Oklahoma City also is content with passing up players because it is comfortable with what it has. Andre Roberson is made in the same mold as Sefolosha, long, athletic, gritty and defensive-minded.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: July 6, 2014


photo - Oklahoma City Thunder's Andre Roberson talks to the media during exit interviews at the teams practice facility in Oklahoma City,  Monday June2, 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City Thunder's Andre Roberson talks to the media during exit interviews at the teams practice facility in Oklahoma City, Monday June2, 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

ORLANDO, Fla. — As the Thunder seeks to improve its roster this summer, two things have Oklahoma City stuck in a holding pattern.

LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

The two biggest fish on the market have effectively paralyzed the Thunder and every team like it. Free agency, in case you haven’t noticed, has slowed to a crawl, and it’s a direct result of the league waiting to see where those two stars land.

In Oklahoma City, that waiting game has in essence postponed the Thunder’s pursuit of Pau Gasol. He too is waiting to see what happens, thus it’s nothing the Thunder can do to expedite a decision. There is a widespread belief that Gasol would re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers should Anthony join him and Kobe Bryant. Meanwhile, if LeBron leaves Miami his departure would free up more money for the Heat and others to throw at Gasol.

Two players have far-reaching tentacles.

The Thunder, for the time being, simply is handcuffed, unable to do anything else in free agency until the team is certain that Gasol can’t be had. And as the days go by, that predicament has put Oklahoma City’s search for a starting shooting guard in a precarious place.

Thabo Sefolosha will soon be an official member of the Atlanta Hawks. Other teams have snatched up potential replacements one by one over the past two weeks.

Arron Afflalo was traded to Denver. Ben Gordon went to Orlando. Jodie Meeks joined Detroit. C.J. Miles landed in Indiana. Avery Bradley stayed in Boston.

With the type of coin some of those names fetched — $19 million over three years for Meeks, $18 million over four years for Miles — Thunder general manager Sam Presti looks pretty smart for sitting on the sidelines.

But the remaining realistic options are fading fast. They include names like Mike Miller, Vince Carter, Alan Anderson, Antony Morrow and Francisco Garcia.

More and more, though, a somewhat radical idea is becoming a strong possibility — starting second-year guard Andre Roberson.

The Thunder is not just turning down free agents because of costs. Oklahoma City also is content with passing up players because it is comfortable with what it has.

Roberson is made in the same mold as Sefolosha, long, athletic, gritty and defensive-minded. Since the Thunder acquired Sefolosha midway through the 2008-09 season, the team has preferred to keep a lockdown-defender type at the starting shooting guard spot. It alleviates pressure from Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant defensively and allows the two stars to focus on offense.

It’s a formula that has worked well for the Thunder, helping OKC reach the conference finals three of the past four seasons. The team also has long looked at the decision as a simple strategy that helps maximize the talent on the roster by balancing the first and second units with offense and defense. For example, with Sefolosha starting the Thunder always could call on James Harden/Kevin Martin/Reggie Jackson/Jeremy Lamb off the bench.


by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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