This three-part article series titled “Thunder Free Agent Watch” covers the 2018 free agents that the Oklahoma City Thunder may target after July 1st. These articles focus solely on players that could realistically be signed by Oklahoma City using either a Veteran Minimum salary or the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (roughly $5.2 Million).
When consuming any NBA related information - whether it be from your friend’s podcast, ESPN, Twitter, an article, etc - one specific phrase is typically used very liberally: “The Modern NBA.” Although they did not exclusively start the idea, we can thank the Golden State Warriors for the rapid ascension of the idea. The “modern NBA,” in essence, means more wing players, more length, more 3-point shooting, and more versatility.
A wing player who can play above-average defense and efficiently shoot threes is the hottest commodity in the league, so it would make sense that the Oklahoma City Thunder would like to acquire more depth at the position. Andre Roberson, Alex Abrines, and Terrance Ferguson are all slotted at the wing currently, but all have flaws in their game. The soon-to-be free agent Paul George would also fit in that category, should he choose to return to The Thunder for another season. Carmelo Anthony technically fills that role, although it remains to be seen if he will play in Oklahoma City next season or pursue a buyout of his current contract.
With uncertainty around - arguably - the teams two best wing players, the Thunder will be expected to scour the free agent market in search of wing depth. Here are five players that could fill that role:
6-9, 189 pounds
Played for the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder last season
Corey Brewer started the final 16 games for the Thunder last season after securing a buyout with the Lakers. He is a long, lanky defender, but beginning to lose his step as he ages (he will be 33 next season). Brewer scored 10 points a game while shooting 34% from three while with Oklahoma City, although he is a career 28% three point shooter.
6-8, 215 pounds
Played for the Orlando Magic last season
After being selected with the 5th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, Mario Hezonja has failed to reach his potential as an NBA player, resulting in the Orlando Magic releasing him to free agency a year early. At 23 years old, there is still hope that Hezonja can grow into a decent defender who can contribute to a winning team. He scored 10 points per game on 34% shooting from three in 22 minutes a game last season for the 25-57 Magic.
6-2, 180 pounds
Played for the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Clippers last season
Avery Bradley has made a living in the NBA as a pesky on-ball defender with his 6-foot 7-inch wingspan and quick feet. He underperformed in Detroit after having a tremendous run in Boston. Surgery on his abdominal muscles cut his 2016-17 season short. He is a career 37% 3-point shooter and may sign with a team for the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception due to the lack of cap space in the league and a desire to play for a winning team.
6-5, 205 pounds
Played for the Los Angeles Lakers last season
Caldwell-Pope is a scorer, averaging double digit points four out of his five seasons in the NBA. He shot 38% from the three-point line for the Lakers last season on nearly six attempts per game while being a league average defender. Some off the court issues (including an jail sentence served last season) and lack of cap space in the NBA this summer may result in him signing a smaller contract.
6-8, 230 pounds
Played for the San Antonio Spurs last season
Gay bounced back from his Achilles tear to play 57 games for the San Antonio Spurs last season - 51 of those games coming off the bench. Oklahoma City made a free agency pitch to Gay in the summer of 2017 when he ultimately took more money to play in San Antonio. Gay opted out of his $8.4 Million contract for next season to become a free agent this summer. Many analysts believe Gay gave up a bigger one-year payday to secure a longer, multi-year deal. It is safe to assume that The Thunder will once again try to convince the career 18 points per game wing to play in Oklahoma City.
When free agency begins on July 1st, all 30 NBA teams will be calling player’s agents, expressing interest in certain players and gauging those players thoughts and feelings. While every team has their own specific needs for their roster, one thing is for sure: you can never have enough wings.