The Thunder might have its sights set on a specific shooting guard among the bunch in this year’s free agent class.
Veteran guard Vince Carter reportedly will attract several suitors as free agency gets underway Tuesday, and the Thunder is said to be one of them.
Oklahoma City is expected to be joined by Miami, Portland and Toronto in its pursuit of the 37-year-old Carter, according to a report by ESPNDallas.com.
Carter has played the past three seasons in Dallas, primarily coming off the bench the past two seasons. He appeared in 81 games in each of the past two seasons and averaged 11.9 points this past year.
The report, however, said there is mutual interest between Carter and the Mavs for Carter to remain in Dallas. He’s coming off a cap-friendly three-year, $9.3 million contract that paid him $3.18 million in 2013-14.
With the Thunder, Carter could be a relatively cheap option to provide perimeter shooting, depth and experience. Carter connected on 39.4 percent of his 3-pointers last season and 40.6 percent in 2012-13. For his career, he’s a 37.8 percent 3-point shooter.
The Thunder is likely to let Thabo Sefolosha walk as an unrestricted free agent this summer and could be in search for a starting shooting guard to replace him. Sefolosha spent the past 5 1/2 seasons in that role.
But the Thunder’s off-season decisions for roster improvements will be delicate. OKC isn’t believed to be in pursuit of a premier shooting guard. The Thunder must be cognizant of up-and-coming players as it proceeds with off-season plans, particularly Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb, both of whom are set to receive boosts in playing time next season. Much of their minutes will come at shooting guard or in three-guard rotations, something that would not be possible if the Thunder acquires a shooting guard who would require 30-35 minutes a night.
It’s a reality that likely will leave the Thunder choosing from a more modest pool.
Additionally, OKC has preferred a defensive-minded starter at shooting guard to both assist and alleviate pressure from Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant on the defensive end. If the Thunder is indeed interested and could get him, Carter wouldn’t necessarily step in as the starter despite the clear need. But if he did, he wouldn’t be the perimeter defender the Thunder has preferred in that spot. One possibility that is worth getting used to is second-year guard Andre Roberson filling the role. As a rookie, Roberson started 16 games as an emergency fill-in. The Thunder went 12-4 in those contests. Roberson averaged just 2.6 points and 3.5 rebounds in those 16 games, but he played just 16.5 minutes per game, leaving plenty of playing time for players like Jackson and Lamb to make up the rest.
It’s unclear the level of interest the Thunder might have in Carter. But as a championship-caliber team, it’s no surprise that Oklahoma City is in the conversation for a veteran who likely is looking to latch on to a potential title team. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the Thunder will meet with Pau Gasol as well. But it’s not uncommon for teams like the Thunder to be linked to free agents if only to generate interest and drive up the demand. It’s long been a part of the nature of the free agency process and a potential tactic we can expect to see continue throughout July.