It seems like I can’t stop writing about the Thunder. It’s just that the franchise is so enticing.
Three games into Oklahoma City’s first playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, hopes are high for the players and fans. While they did drop the first two games to the Lakers at the Staples Center, the second game was closer than the defending champions would have preferred, and the Thunder came away with a strong win at home in Game 3.
How great would it be if Oklahoma City, behind the leadership of newly crowned coach of the year Scott Brooks, could emerge with an upset over Kobe Byrant, Phil Jackson, and the rest?
It wouldn’t be great; it would be immaculate.
The thing is, it’s just not that likely. Even though Oklahoma City has shown it can compete, behind impressive scoring efforts from Durant and electric success from Russell Westbrook, the team sorely lacks talent in the front court. Against a team like the Lakers, with two seven footers in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, that’s a major matchup problem.
For a hypothetical’s sake, let’s say the Thunder fall. L.A. survives a scare and moves on to the conference semifinals. Oklahoma City goes home pleased with its progress but totally unsatisfied with the end result.
In that scenario, the offseason should be something the organization anticipates. One of the finest free-agent classes in recent history will hit the open market July 1, boasting such stars as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, and Chris Bosh.
It was speculated Friday that Toronto’s power forward, a Dallas native, might be interested in signing with the Thunder this summer. As the roster currently stands, Oklahoma figures to have a little over $15 million in cap space, a tad short of being able to sign a player to a maximum contract.
With a carefully orchestrated trade that includes the departure of Nick Collison or Nenad Krstic, the team could easily increase its space sufficiently to tender Bosh an offer.
So let’s also say everything goes well, and Bosh signs a deal to play in Oklahoma City. How great would that be? Considering the aforementioned substandard production of the team’s forwards, Bosh would be a welcome arrival.
According to hoopsstats.com, OKC’s paint players (power forwards and centers) ranked 25th in the league in scoring at a rate of 35.7 points per contest. Bosh on his own averaged over 24 points a game.
Moreover, those same paint players garnered a rank of 28th in rebounding at 21.4 boards a game. Bosh pulled down just under 11 a tilt singlehandedly.
Most dramatically, the Thunder’s paint players averaged just 6.7 free throws a game. Bosh shot almost two more (8.4) from the stripe than Oklahoma City’s troupe of paint players.
Obviously they’d love to add him to the front court from an offensive and rebounding perspective. But are there drawbacks?
The Thunder have made significant progress on the strength of their defense, one that Collison and Serge Ibaka anchor up front. Oklahoma City ranked 11th in the league at 97.9 points allowed and ranked seventh with an opponent’s field-goal percentage of 44.8.
Bosh isn’t exactly known as a tenacious defender, so will throwing him into the system detract from the team’s success on that side of the ball? It depends on whom he replaces. Collison’s a solid defender, but Krstic isn’t elite there. If Bosh joins the team and starts at center for Krstic, Bosh is probably a defensive upgrade, to be truthful.
More importantly, though, will adding a star of Bosh’s caliber quash the team’s chemistry that has been key to Oklahoma City’s success? The Thunder already have one star in Durant, but he’s so reserved and calm that he doesn’t have any problem fitting in to the team picture. After all, he quietly put up with two seasons of mediocrity before this one without so much as an inkling of negativity.
Bosh, however, has been less than private about his dissatisfaction with the Raptors organization. He could easily sour a flawless locker-room situation in Oklahoma City, jeopardizing that ever-so-valuable chemistry.
All that aside, the Thunder shouldn’t get their hopes up. There will be a lot of suitors for Bosh this summer, so Oklahoma City may not even have a chance. Furthermore, the team hasn’t won so many games by looking forward. Those players need to focus on the next game at all times and try to dethrone the Lakers in the first round.