Thunder: 3 early NBA free agency targets in 2023 offseason

The expectations surrounding the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to be higher than they’ve been in a long time next season. After making it one win away from both a .500 record and a playoff berth, the natural progression would be to make the postseason.

Armed with a thousand first-round picks, budding youngsters on rookie deals, and a superstar like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander fresh off his All-NBA 1st-Team selection, there’s really nowhere to go but up for the boys from OKC.

That’s what makes their offseason moves this summer absolutely critical. Adding the right veterans onto the roster alongside their burgeoning core will go a long way in helping the team take the next step.

With the Thunder likely to part ways with backup big man Dario Saric and a slew of cap holds being cleared, Sam Presti will have about $30 million in cap space to work with.

That’s a lot of cheddar that can help the team sign a real difference-maker.

Here are four potential signings that could help the Oklahoma City Thunder make the leap fans are hoping for next season:

Thunder’s Ideal Signing: Brook Lopez

With Brook Lopez turning 36 next season, it’s fair to wonder how sensible it would be to add him to a Thunder squad that’s one of the youngest in NBA history. But the Milwaukee Bucks center is the exact type of short-term add that could elevate the team to new heights.

He plugs the Thunder’s gaping hole at center, one that the team hopes Chet Holmgren can fill in the years to come. Having Lopez, who was second in Defense Player of the Year voting last season, to mentor Holmgren behind the scenes while also serving as an elite rim-protector during game-action will be worth every penny of his potentially $25 million+ contract he’ll likely command in the open market.

It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a dependable volume shooter from the perimeter who can space the floor for another paint demon in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander just like he’s done for Giannis Antetokounmpo over the past five seasons.

It’s hard to imagine the Bucks letting him go nor for Lopez to openly want to leave Milwaukee, but money talks and the Thunder have a lot of it.

Most Surreal Signing: Draymond Green

Speaking of hard to imagine signings, Draymond Green has tormented Thunder fans for years with his elite defense throughout several Warriors-Thunder matchups throughout the past decade. He wields a player option to opt-out of the final year of his current deal and may be looking for more guaranteed money with his best years behind him.

He’s reinforced his desire to stick with the Warriors for the rest of his career, but Golden State is facing a monumental luxury tax bill and may be forced to make some hard decisions this offseason to maximize Stephen Curry’s extended prime.

Draymond Green would be the epitome of veteran leadership that could jumpstart the Thunder into contention. He’s an excellent playmaker and one of the best small-ball fives in NBA history. Trotting him out with Josh Giddey, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams, and Lu Dort would be an extremely versatile unit at Mark Daigneult’s disposal. He’s also an ideal pairing for Chet Holmgren from the 4-spot and could be the right voice in his ear to bring out the best in the young stud.

All Offense, All the Time: Nikola Vucevic

Nikola Vucevic may not be the same defensive specimen as the first two on this list, but he does bring with him an offensive repertoire that the Thunder have arguably never seen in franchise history. The 4-time All-Star has been an 18-11 guy for the Chicago Bulls on just a shade under 50 percent shooting from the field.

He brings an interior post presence ala Enes Kanter back in the day but is also a career 35 percent shooter from distance. Integrating a proven inside-out scorer could very well turbocharge the Thunder offense into one of the best in Western Conference.

He’s also been one of the best rebounders in the NBA for a decade now and would elevate OKC on the boards – a critical weakness when the Thunder have faced hulking frontcourt opponents.

Fan-Favorite Move: Russell Westbrook

On this current Thunder roster, Russell Westbrook would have to come off the bench. He’d also have to take a major backseat to several players a decade younger than him. The Clippers may also be looking to bring him back after he showed some flashes of his old self during their ill-fated playoff run.

But if Russell Westbrook wanted to disregard all that and ride off into the sunset with the Thunder’s next generation, that would be a sight to behold.

The post Thunder: 3 early NBA free agency targets in 2023 offseason appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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