Oklahoma City Thunder Offseason Moves: What’s Next for OKC?

Oklahoma City Thunder Offseason Moves: What’s Next for OKC? article feature image

The Oklahoma City Thunder jumped to the second-shortest championship odds after acquiring elite defenders Alex Caruso and Isaiah Hartenstein this offseason. Both players solve major needs and will be key cogs in their title push. 

Although the Thunder already feature a cramped rotation, Sam Presti should make one more free-agency move to fill the final roster spot before packing his bags for a well-earned vacation. 

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Thunder Offseason Moves: What Should OKC Do Next?

Oklahoma City lacks cap space, but they can utilize the room exception to sign a player for a maximum of two years and up to $7.7M for the first season. 

The Thunder are flush with guards and fixed their center rotation. The depth chart could use another forward that plays tough defense without compromising spacing though. Enter Robert Covington. The 33-year-old only managed to register 488 minutes across 29 games last season due to a knee injury, but he remained effective during that span. 

Covington finished the year ranked 18th in D-EPM, which is probably the most reliable advanced defensive metric. He also posted an absolutely monstrous steal percentage and ranked 12th across the NBA in defensive role versatility – Basketball Index’s metric that essentially captures how frequently a player guards different offensive roles (movement shooter, shot creator, stretch big, etc.). 

At 6’7” tall with a 7’1” wingspan, the veteran is disruptive, lengthy, and fits Oklahoma City’s rotation-heavy defensive system well. 

Covington struggled to connect from 3-point range last year, but he shot 38% over the previous three seasons. It’s likely that his efficiency bounces back because the vast majority of his outside attempts will be wide open while playing for the Thunder. 

Playoff experience and veteran leadership are added bonuses to signing Covington. Plus, he should be content to accept inconsistent playing time and a much smaller role for two reasons. First, Oklahoma City gives him his best chance at a ring. Second, they can afford to overpay utilizing the room exception and offer proportionally far more money than the veteran minimum.  

A one-year deal worth $7,000,000 likely beats any other potential deal on the table from other franchises by a wide margin. Why would the Thunder substantially overpay for a near end-of-the-bench player with injury concerns though? 

Not only does Covington provide 3&D depth, but his expiring contract can be used at the trade deadline to facilitate an upgrade. For example, a package of Covington and former lottery pick Ousmane Dieng would be $12,027,040 in combined salary. Add Kenrich Williams to the deal and that total becomes $18,696,040. 

If the first half of the season reveals flaws, then that’s enough salary to swiftly address the situation by trading for an incredibly impactful veteran. Even if the Thunder do not find a trade, they still benefit from Covington's presence on the roster. 

There’s no financial penalty to this forward-thinking move either. After signing Covington, Oklahoma City would still be $9,259,977 below the luxury tax and $16,577,977 under the first apron. His expiring contract removes any obligations for next season too and grants them their flexibility back. 

Overall, it’s a low-risk, high-reward move that is exactly the sort of transaction that Presti loves to orchestrate. 

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Jul 17, 2024 UTC