The Thunder’s Options

The Thunder provided the most disappointing season in all of the NBA. No, the season is not technically over, but Oklahoma City will have to string together three straight wins. If the regular season is indicative of anything, the Thunder will not be able to pull that off. So … what’s the problem(s)?Is it the coaching, is it Sam Presti, is it, dare I say, Russel Westbrook. The day after the season ends, the dignitaries of the Thunder must reevaluate their philosophies, their egos, their management, their coaching, whatever the problem(s) may be. It must be fixed. Not only do they need to re-evaluate their options. They simply need to evaluate.Oklahoma City has one of the most promising franchises in all of professional basketball. A rapidly growing city, the reigning MVP, which they can use in multiple ways, (we’ll get to that in a moment) and some of the best players in the nation. 3 of the Thunder’s starters are easily in the Top 20-30 of all NBA players and Steven Adams is in that mix as well.Let’s take a look at all of the Thunder’s options. We’ll go through how a fan thinks of it, from the solution that comes first to mind, to the solution that most Thunder fans wouldn’t dream of.

COACHING

Coaching could very well be the Thunder’s biggest problem. It seems simple, but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Billy Donovan is a good basketball mind and can coach willing players. However, if he can coach big egos (which is most if not all NBA players) is rather unclear. Yes, Donovan won championships at Florida and yes, he sustained some success in Oklahoma City. But … his team has not done well with some of the league’s best players, and the third highest payroll in the NBA. The resources are all he could ask for. Who could replace Billy Donovan?

First some realistic, practical candidates.

MAURICE CHEEKS

Nick Collison is to Thunder players as Mo Cheeks is to Thunder coaching. He’s sat, quietly, on the sideline through thick and thin, widely unknown to Thunder fans. Mike Boynton is a prime example that a long-tenured assistant coach can have success sitting in another seat on the bench.

MIKE BROWN

Currently, Brown is the associate head coach of the Golden State Warriors. That’s a move that sounds unlikely to most, but let’s be honest, the NBA is a business. If the money and the opportunity are right, I would not be shocked to see Brown come to Oklahoma City. He coached Golden State in the playoffs while Steve Kerr was out with a back issue, so, he’s not completely inexperienced in a head coaching role.

DAVID FIZDALE

Fizdale, the recently fired Grizzlies coach, would certainly take the Thunder job. From the backlash Memphis got after his release he is evidently a players coach, which might just be what the Thunder need. Assuming the OK3 stick around. Side note – Barring a trade, I predict they’ll all stay. Melo is too old to make another big move, Russ just signed a long-term and Paul George would be making a gravely wrong decision to go to the tanking teams that are the Clippers or the Lakers. If he does, good riddance. Anyway, if Fizdale relates to the players, it might just work in OKC.And some long shots …

JEFF VAN GUNDY
JVG currently sits on press row with the NBA on ESPN. I think he’s one of the elite television analysts in the NBA. He’s relatable to fans and shares a lot of the grievances that the average fan does. ESPN would take a big hit losing him. He didn’t do that well with his previous jobs at Houston and NYC, but maybe some time away was good for him.

JAY WRIGHT

Wright is the head coach of the reigning NCAA Champions Villanova Wildcats. If he’s ready to make the next step, a small market, a la OKC, would be a great landing spot for a new kid on the NBA scene. It’s doubtful he’d leave the dynasty he’s built at Villanova. If OKC could land Wright, OKC fans would and should swoon.If it’s not coaching, it might be the people at the top of the Thunder organization. The ownership doesn’t appear to be a problem, again, the Thunder have the third highest payroll in the NBA, and Sam Presti makes most of the hard-hitting business decisions. Presti is the one who made up the OK3. Credit to him for getting two fo the league’s most notable players, but basketball is a team sport. There must be chemistry. It could be a philosophy issue when getting the OK3, or maybe it was completely unforeseen.

Now for the hard part. Make sure you’re seated for this one. Remember, this article is not speaking anything into existence. It’s simply throwing out ideas.

Trade Russell Westbrook.

But he’s the reigning MVP. He averaged a triple-double two straight seasons. He’s the face of the franchise. What about the other players? What major contributions did they make to the team?

Russ Rules the Roost. (Alliteration intended)

All true. Westbrook is an elite basketball player to say the least. However, that elite-level talent may benefit the Thunder elsewhere. Kevin Durant “mistakenly” liked a comment on Instagram citing his demise in Oklahoma City. The comment said something to the extent that Russ had too much stock in the Thunder and it didn’t allow Durant to benefit the team like he could.

Professional basketball players want to make an impact. They want to be the face of the franchise. They want to average a triple-double. They don’t want to stat pad. They don’t want to be second fiddle. With Westbrook making, by-and-large, the biggest impact on Oklahoma City, Melo and PG13 want to do just the same. Whether they admit it or not, the big three are fighting to be the best. They play isolation basketball. That simply cannot work for a team sport. In game four of Oklahoma City’s first-round playoff season, the Thunder made nine baskets off assists

Nine.

If the Thunder get bounced in the first round, which looks more than likely, they must evaluate all the options on the table. It’s time for the Thunder to make the next step. It’s been a decade since the franchise made the move. It’s time for them to be what they can be.

A championship team.

Photo via Bleacher Report

Follow Brodie Myers on Twitter @MyersVoice

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