Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2019 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2019/20 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
- Standard contracts:
- Justin Patton: Three years, minimum salary. First year partially guaranteed ($700K). Second year non-guaranteed. Third-year team option. Signed using mid-level exception.
- Mike Muscala: Two years, minimum salary. Second-year player option. Signed using minimum salary exception.
- Nerlens Noel: One year, minimum salary. Re-signed using minimum salary exception.
- Two-way contracts:
- Non-guaranteed camp contracts:
- Acquired the draft rights to Darius Bazley (No. 23 pick) and the Grizzlies’ 2024 second-round pick from the Grizzlies in exchange for the draft rights to Brandon Clarke (No. 21 pick).
- Acquired the Nuggets’ 2020 first-round pick (top-10 protected) from the Nuggets in exchange for Jerami Grant.
- Acquired Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Heat’s 2021 first-round pick (unprotected), the Clippers’ 2022 first-round pick (unprotected), the Heat’s 2023 first round pick (top-14 protected), the Clippers’ 2024 first-round pick (unprotected), the Clippers’ 2026 first-round pick (unprotected), and the right to swap first-round picks with the Clippers in both 2023 and 2025 from the Clippers in exchange for Paul George.
- Acquired Chris Paul, the Rockets’ 2024 first-round pick (top-four protected), the Rockets’ 2026 first-round pick (top-four protected), the right to swap 2021 first-round picks (top-four protected), the right to swap 2025 first-round picks (top-10 protected), and conditional cash ($1MM) from the Rockets in exchange for Russell Westbrook.
- Note: The Rockets would only owe the Thunder $1MM (and a 2026 second-round pick) if the 2026 first-round pick falls in the top four.
- 1-23: Darius Bazley — Signed to rookie contract.
- Devon Hall (2018 draft; No. 53 pick) — Signed to two-way contract.
Other offseason news:
- Lost assistant coaches Darko Rajakovic, Bob Beyer, and Mark Bryant.
- Hired Brian Keefe, David Akinyooye, Dave Bliss, Mark Daigneault, and Mike Wilks as assistant coaches.
- Named Grant Gibbs head coach of G League affiliate (Oklahoma City Blue); named Eric Maynor assistant coach for G League affiliate.
Salary cap situation:
- Remained over the cap.
- Over tax line by approximately $921K.
- Carrying approximately $132.46MM in guaranteed salary.
- $4.1MM of taxpayer mid-level exception still available ($1.62MM used on Justin Patton).
Story of the summer:
In a span of one week in July, the Thunder’s long-term outlook was flipped on its head, due primarily to a free agency decision made by a player who was neither leaving nor joining the franchise: Kawhi Leonard.
When the free agent period opened on June 30, the Thunder immediately pursued and agreed to deals with low-cost veterans like Mike Muscala and Alec Burks, a signal that the club was focused on filling out its roster with complementary role players around its stars. However, around that same time, Leonard – the top free agent on the market – was convincing Thunder forward Paul George to request a trade to the Clippers, which would allow the two superstars to team up in their hometown of Los Angeles.
The Thunder, presumably recognizing that this was their best chance to maximize George’s value before he went public with his desire to leave Oklahoma City, acquiesced to his trade demand and extracted a massive haul from the Clippers.
At that point, reloading around Russell Westbrook was a still a possibility, but with so many free agents and trade targets already off the market, it would have been a tall task for OKC to acquire the pieces necessary to contend in 2019/20.
Instead, general manager Sam Presti and the front office dove headfirst into the rebuild, acquiring several more first-round draft picks by sending Westbrook to Houston and forward Jerami Grant to Denver. However, that was about as far as the Thunder could get on the trade market, since veterans like Chris Paul and Steven Adams have oversized contracts that will make them difficult to move for positive value.
That leaves the club in a tough spot. With players like Paul, Adams, Danilo Gallinari, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leading the way, this is a roster capable of winning some games. But the best thing for the Thunder’s rebuild might be to slide even further down the standings in order to secure a top pick in next year’s draft.
It will be fascinating to see if the Thunder are aggressive in their efforts to further shake up their roster and launch a genuine, full-scale rebuild over the course of the 2019/20 season. Given the veteran talent already on the roster and all the assets the club could dangle in search of upgrades, the front office may feel as if fully bottoming out is unnecessary and instead opt for a brief retooling period.