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Thunder's participation in free agent stakes a mystery

OKC is loaded already, but will general manager Sam Presti make a move?
BY DARNELL MAYBERRY, Staff Writer, dmayberry@opubco.com Published: November 27, 2011
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The first is the Thunder's increasing need to be fiscally responsible. With talents like Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka coming up for contract extensions, the Thunder simply can't afford to throw away money on any pricey pieces. The second factor is much simpler. This year's free agent class is crummy. The most desirable players — Nene, Tyson Chandler, David West, Jamal Crawford, Marc Gasol and Caron Butler — cost too much and would only be a duplicate on the current roster.

A popular free agent among Thunder fans has been Shane Battier, a defensive difference-maker who helped Memphis give Kevin Durant fits in the playoffs. But Battier fits the bill as a player who could be too costly and is nearly a clone of a current Thunder player, shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha. While Battier is a better perimeter shooter, Sefolosha is younger, possesses the franchise's “corporate knowledge” and, most importantly, already is signed to a relatively budget-friendly deal that pays him less than $4 million in each of the next three seasons.

Sorry, Battier seekers.

It'd be best for Thunder fans to turn their attention to the bargains, if anybody, in this year's watered-down class. Keep an eye out for specialists. Sharpshooters. Defenders. Rugged rebounders. Veterans who can supply stretches of sustained energy at a discount shouldn't be ruled out, either.

Those performers are about as attractive as RuPaul. They have names like Reggie Evans and Jeff Foster and Steve Novak and James Jones, which means it's probably best to not get too crazy about the possibilities for the Thunder in this class.

There might still be room in OKC's shopping cart for a free agent. But we're past the point of banking on one.

The only thing better than that is we're finally talking about basketball again.


FIVE FITS?

Five under-the-radar, yet reasonable free agents that could fit nicely with the Thunder.

Marcus Thornton, G, Sacramento*

2010-11 stats: 12.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.9 spg.

The skinny: If it's bench scoring the Thunder needs, Thornton could be a one-man lightning bolt. He averaged 21.3 points in 27 games with Sacramento last season following a mid-season trade from New Orleans.

Kris Humphries, PF, New Jersey

2010-11 stats: 10.0 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.1 bpg.

The skinny: Humphries is known much more for his short-lived marriage to socialite Kim Kardashian than he is for his double-double average from a season ago. But, quietly, the rugged power forward was one of the most effective and efficient big men in the league, albeit for a bottom-feeding New Jersey club. Still, his $3.2 million salary last season made him one of the best bargains in the league. Might not be a bad bargain if the Thunder is looking to bolster its frontcourt depth.

Arron Afflalo, G, Denver*

2010-11 stats: 12.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.4 apg.

The skinny: After a career year, Afflalo could now cash in big time after proving himself to be a big-shot maker and bulldog defender. He'd have to settle for less money and minutes in OKC but could slide in nicely as a backup to Kevin Durant.

Peja Stojakovic, SF, Dallas

2010-11 stats: 8.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.9 apg.

The skinny: The first time he signed in Oklahoma City it was for a mammoth $64 million. Maybe this time things could work out a little better. The Thunder still could use one more dead-eye shooter, and at this point in his career that's about all Stojakovic can still supply. Unless another team is willing to vastly overpay the injury-prone 34-year-old, the Thunder could land the career 38.5 percent 3-point shooter on a cheap veteran's deal and dust him off only for specific game-situation or emergency minutes.

Anthony Parker, G, Cleveland

2010-11 stats: 8.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 0.9 spg.

The skinny: He's 36 but can still fill it up from deep and be a tough defender in spurts. His professionalism would be an added plus in the locker room, and the Thunder likely wouldn't need to greatly exceed the veteran's minimum to sign him to a short term deal if he's seeking a shot at a title in the twilight years of his career.

Others of note: Shane Battier, Reggie Evans, Jeff Foster, Grant Hill, James Jones, Jason Kapono, Carl Landry, Roger Mason, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Steve Novak.

* Denotes restricted free agents.

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