Dirk wrote:OKC is surging...
OKC is an interesting case. What is making the playoffs worth?
I've always had a championship or bust mentality, which I still do. But, the opposite side of that coin is, I remember 2011 well. Mavs blew like a 23 point 3rd quarter lead to the Blazers in the 1st round. They had the Lakers looming in round 2, who at the time were 2-time defending champs. The Mavs coming off of basically 5 years of disappointing playoff appearances. Who in their right mind would of said, "Yeah, the Mavs can win it all this year?" And that doesn't even take into account the probability they'd face LeBron, Wade & Bosh in the Finals. Ya know?
So, just a playoff appearance is worth something. Because you never know. But, I do think NBA teams have, especially recently with the Warriors (in particular after Durant joined) teams have not tried to compete. Why mortgage the future just to finish runner up to the Warriors? There is something to be said for knowing where you stack up vs the competition.
If I'm the Thunder, then I'm looking at CP3 as a depreciating asset. His contract is massive, but I think it'll actually be harder to trade him as time goes by because he's not getting any younger, and whoever would trade for CP3 would do it for the immediate benefit & just stomach the god awful final years of his contract. OKC needs to recoup whatever value they can get for CP3 now. Not wait.
I think a similar mentality should be applied to Gallinari & Adams. Not to mention, if I'm the Thunder I want more playing time for Ferguson & Bazley. I want Gilgeous-Alexander to slide into that #1 option & see how he handles it. I'd want to move Schroder, as well. Make room for the youngsters. I wouldn't even want the playoffs. I'd want to get up into the top 7-8 of this draft if possible. Selling off those pieces accomplishes that.
End of the day, I think you have to fall back on the prevailing wisdom that the worst place to be in the NBA is in the middle. OKC can keep fighting & it's admirable, but you don't want to be in that 7th-10th seed range. That's the worse place to be. I think Sam Presti made those moves this summer with a bigger picture in mind, and I don't think he's going to change course just because the Thunder are performing better than expectation.
All of that said, it's really only the Lakers, the Clippers, and the Mavericks who have impressed me this year in the West. I think OKC could beat the Rockets in a 1st round playoff series. I think they could handle the Jazz or the Nuggets, and we know even the Mavs have their own playoff concerns. It wouldn't be crazy to hold on for one more season & see how it goes. Plus, how glorious would it be for OKC to knock off the Clippers in the playoffs after PG begged to get out & everyone wrote OKC off for the lottery?