Tahlequah Daily Press


June 5, 2014

Revamp the roster

Oklahoma City needs to provide Durant, Westbrook with better help

Being a basketball savant wasn't necessary to recognize these names during the 90s: Karl Malone, John Stockton, Shawn Kemp or Charles Barkley.

All great players. All with the same amount of championships in the National Basketball Association.




There was a guy named Michael Jordan in the way, getting fitted for a ring seemingly every June.

Luckily for Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, Jordan got bored with winning basketball championships and decided he'd enjoy hitting for a putrid .200 batting average while playing minor league baseball. Olajuwon and Drexler gladly cheered on Jordan and his baseball career while they provided Houston with a couple of NBA titles.

Then Jordan came back. And the NBA crowns promptly returned to Chicago.

So what does all of that have to do with what's going on in the NBA right now? Well, for starters, LeBron James is today's version of Jordan — and last I checked, he didn't buy property in Miami to try out spring training baseball sites. No, James is sticking around, and he's trekking toward Jordan's title territory.

Not great news for fans of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

What's even worse is Durant and Westbrook and the rest of the Storm Troopers in Oklahoma City are venturing toward Malone-Stockton territory. Sure, Durant and Westbrook are tremendous players, but they're surrounded with nowhere near the supporting cast that Malone and Stockton had.

Jeff Hornacek's shooting ability would make Thabo Sefolosha blush. Nick Collison would need more than a pair of Oakleys to be anywhere close to Antoine Carr's skill set. And Shandon Anderson's clutchness is probably nowhere near Derek Fisher's, but the Fisher of 2014 makes Anderson look like an All-Star.

The Jazz had Bryon Russell and Howard Eisley. Oklahoma City has Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson. Two sets of solid contributors; and we found out Ibaka is far more valuable than we could have ever imagined.

Utah had good players and so does Oklahoma City. But the Jazz never brought a title to the Wasatch Range, and the Thunder are verging on repeating the same feat for the Sooner State.

It's time to make a change.

Send Greg Ostertag, err, I mean Kendrick Perkins somewhere else. Anywhere else. Doesn't matter. Just get him far enough away that Scott Brooks doesn't get tempted to put him in the game. Sure, the Thunder owe Perkins a sizable chuck of cash in 2014-2015, but amnesty him, write him a check, send him on his way, get the money back toward the payroll and get a center that doesn't look like he's caught in a wind tunnel when he runs. Oh, and productivity would be nice, too.

(Look, wasting money is never ideal. But it happens in business. Bad contracts are a way of life. So write Perkins and check, shake his hand and wish him luck.)

Might as well send Caron Butler, Hasheem Thabeet, Fisher and Sefolosha with Perkins. All were decent names on the OKC roster at one point, not anymore.

If you can bait another team into trading for any of those guys, then go for it. But the free agency market and the NBA draft could potentially be very deep. Now's the time to loosen the purse strings and go for glory.

Durant's and Westbrook's time in Oklahoma City could be evaporating. It certainly is if the front office doesn't take take a long, hard look at the shoddy roster it had during its recently-concluded playoff run.

The bench needs to get better – a lot better. OKC also needs a few sharpshooters from deep. Stephen Adams progressed nicely, so that’s a plus.

But superstars like Durant and Westbrook can only do so much — mainly, get to the Western Conference Finals or NBA Finals before flaming out against a better TEAM.

It's up to Sam Presti, Clay Bennett and other Thunder execs to make sure that Durant and Westbrook don't end up with the moniker "Hall of Fame players that never won championships."

It's time to win. It's time to make some changes.

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