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What will make a successful summer for the Oklahoma City Thunder?

by Darnell Mayberry Published: June 13, 2014

(AP Photo/Don Ryan)
(AP Photo/Don Ryan)

 

I took to Twitter on Thursday, as I frequently tend to do, and posed a question to Thunder fans.

It was simple but perhaps significant.

Shumpert or C.J. Miles? Who would you prefer on the Thunder next year?

Iman Shumpert won in a landslide, garnering 43 of 54 votes by the time I closed my spur-of-the-moment poll. Many said it’s not even close. Although it’s worth noting that one Knicks fan, who I just assumed was either jaded or delusional, said Shumpert wouldn’t help the Thunder.

But one responder stood out. His name is Sebastian Hansen. He brought up a great question.

How about both?

It got me to thinking. That’s totally doable for the Thunder, and there’s a chance that could be exactly what we see.

Oklahoma City could trade one of its first-round picks (preferably No. 29) to New York for Shumpert, use its other draft pick to nab a point guard and sign Miles in free agency for around $3.5 million. If the Thunder still can hang on to the 21st selection, it might have a shot at Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis, Louisiana Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton or Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier.

Most think Ennis and Payton will be long gone by 21 and figure Napier will be available. But nobody knows how the draft is going to play out. Players slip past their projected slot all the time. Others often rise unexpectedly. My preference among those three point guards would be Ennis, Napier and then Payton. But all three have skills that the Thunder could use, potential that OKC could tap into. I wouldn’t complain about any of the three.

 

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

 

So let’s say the Thunder this summer lands Shumpert, Miles and Ennis/Napier/Payton. I’d say the offseason was a success. I’d go as far as to grade it an A. The Thunder would get a starting shooting guard in Shumpert, a young guy who can slide in as a solid replacement for Thabo Sefolosha, an additional shooter and defender off the bench in Miles, who’d come on a relatively inexpensive deal, and a third-string point guard to replace the departed Derek Fisher (and maybe eventually replace Reggie Jackson if contract negotiations go awry).

How would you feel about that? Would you be pleased or pissed?

Here would be the Thunder’s likely 10-man rotation: Westbrook, Shumpert, Durant, Ibaka and Adams (maybe) as the starters, and Jackson, Lamb, Miles, Collison and Perkins off the bench. Of course, you’d still have Perry Jones III, Andre Roberson and the rookie point guard, maybe even Hasheem Thabeet. The Thunder could fill the 15th and final spot with Grant Jerrett, or it could leave it open as it has in past years to maintain more in-season flexibility.

Or maybe the Thunder also can lure Mike Miller or Anthony Morrow in free agency to serve as an additional situational shooter, an 11th man or even 10th in games that necessitate small ball.

Is it a slam dunk summer? Relatively speaking, of course not. There’s no blockbuster trade, no mega free-agent signing. But those don’t happen for the Thunder. Ever since the team landed in Oklahoma City it’s had Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka. It has since added young guns Jackson, Lamb, Adams and Jones. The foundation is set. The stars are aligned. Whether you like it, love it or hate it, this is the core, and it has proven itself good enough to get to the conference finals. Small additions (which sometimes come in the form of subtractions), are the name of the game now. And what the above scenario would show is general manager Sam Presti being resourceful and making the most of this summer’s realistic options while also shrewdly keeping his impressive foundation intact.

When it comes to Presti, though, you always have to expect the unexpected.

So much smoke has surrounded Shumpert to the Thunder that it seems legit. As I laid out earlier this week, it even makes sense on many, many levels. But I have serious questions about Presti’s interest level in Shumpert. The Thunder reportedly tried to get Shumpert at the deadline for a first-round pick. The Knicks declined only because they thought they could get a better deal from the Clippers. (Side note: don’t rule out the possibility of New York growing desperate for a draft pick and circling back to the Thunder now that we’re within two weeks of the draft.) But with Sefolosha locked in at the 2-spot at that time, and the promising Lamb in only the infancy stages of his second-half slump, Shumpert would have been overkill. Makes me wonder if Presti had something else up his sleeve, some other destination set up for Shumpert.

That nagging thought is also a reason I think it’s possible the Thunder says no thanks to Shumpert and makes a real run at Miles, maybe even to be the starting shooting guard. OKC signed Miles to an offer sheet in 2008, remember, only to see Utah match that four-year, $14.8 million deal. Sefolosha eventually showed up as the second option. Now, an older, better Miles, 27, could once again be Presti’s man.

As if it all wasn’t puzzling enough, the Thunder’s $6.6 million trade exception, and the options it offers, leaves you guessing even more about what Presti could do.

But all of our questions will be answered over the next 30 days.

For now, you’ve got to like the sound of a summer that lands Shumpert, Miles, Ennis and maybe even Miller or Morrow.

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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