He has three rotation players who will be free agents, two first-round draft picks at his disposal and — gasp — one pivotal contract negotiation with another sixth man.
Sam Presti has much on his plate this off-season.
How the Thunder general manager completes his summer checklist will go a long way in shaping the future of the franchise. It’s a big off-season for OKC, perhaps even the most pivotal the Thunder has had since becoming a title contender.
Not only did the Thunder fall short of its championship goal, but for the first time in its progression as an NBA power, OKC regressed as a team. With changes certainly coming and contracts on star players another year closer to nearing their end, the Thunder has ventured into new territory.
Add to that, the team’s talent is as ready as it’s ever been to win now. No more sitting back and subscribing to the slow-and-steady approach. Injuries to key cogs in each of the last two seasons have illustrated what can happen to championship windows we assume are wide open.
From staffing to signings, the Thunder has major decisions ahead.
The responsibility for figuring it all out and keeping the organization on its championship track falls on the shoulders of one man.
Welcome to the summer of Sam.
Here are the top 10 things on Presti’s summer to-do list.
Critically analyze the coaching staff
More and more observers are starting to question whether Scott Brooks has taken this team as far as he can. Some are even demanding that he be relieved of his duties. Most rational minds don’t think that will happen, but Presti and his staff this summer absolutely should be asking themselves if more can be done to support the product on the court. Presti has expressed enormous confidence in the current roster, which suggests he believes the personnel is not a problem. If that’s the case, it might be time to bring in someone who can help put the personnel in better positions to be successful. That doesn’t necessarily mean starting over with a new head coach. It could be as simple as adding an assistant, someone who specializes in offense or defense and can shore up the struggles and slippage we’ve seen on those respective ends of the floor. Sticking to the status quo could be costly. This is a team that is talented enough to journey to the conference finals for years to come. But more and more, it’s beginning to look like more is needed to get over the hump.
Start contract negotiations with Reggie Jackson
Jackson is eligible for an extension to his rookie deal this summer. If an agreement is not reached by Oct. 31, Jackson will become a restricted free agent next summer, which gives the Thunder the opportunity to match any offer he receives from another team. Ideally, a deal would be reached this summer. It would provide the Thunder clarity for future salary cap calculations and prevent Jackson from receiving a more lucrative offer on the open market. It also would give Jackson long-term security and alleviate any pressure that could come with playing next season in a contract year. But with Jackson saying Sunday he wants to be a starting point guard, something that won’t happen with Russell Westbrook in town, these negotiations could be tough on the Thunder.
Decide what to do with Thabo Sefolosha
He’ll be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and given the way his season went and ended, it appears Sefolosha won’t return. He battled injuries, his defense regressed and his shooting percentages plummeted, from 41.9 percent from 3-point range last season to 31.6 from that distance this season and 26.1 percent in the postseason. Sefolosha’s drop off resulted in him being benched twice in the playoffs, first for the final two games against Memphis, and then for the final four games against San Antonio. With Jeremy Lamb and Andre Roberson waiting in line, Sefolosha’s time with the Thunder might be up.
Decide what to do with Derek Fisher and Caron Butler
Both will be unrestricted free agents, and both are well beyond their best days. But both added leadership in the locker room and toughness and experience on the court, things the Thunder sorely needed. But, like Sefolosha, their production plummeted in the postseason. Fisher has said this would be his final season, and he has been linked to the Knicks’ vacant coaching job for months. Meanwhile, Butler, 34, didn’t end up providing the boost he was expected to bring. Even worse, his arrival stunted the growth of young players like Lamb and Perry Jones III when they got squeezed out of the rotation. The question Presti has to ask himself is whether it’s worth bringing Butler back if it means another year of Lamb and Jones sitting the bench.
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