The Oklahoma City Thunder still have to figure out how to be a consistent playoff contender without Kevin Durant anchoring the roster, but they made two moves today that have given the future (the near future, at least) a more defined shape.
Multiple reports have the Thunder signing Victor Oladipo to a four-year, $84 million extension and Steven Adams to a new four-year, $100 million deal. The Thunder now have an explosive, 24-year-old combo guard and a 23-year-old monster of a center signed to below-max deals, and it’s hard to argue that these moves aren’t objectively good news for Thunder fans.
The ultimate fate of this team doesn’t really rest with Adams and Oladipo, though. It rests with Russell Westbrook, who recently signed a three-year extension that he can opt out of in 2018. Remove Westbrook from the equation, and the Thunder are suddenly a team locked into paying Adams and Oladipo to win something like 35-40 games per season.
In that nightmare scenario, it would make sense for the Thunder to use Adams’s and Oladipo’s bargain contracts as trade chips and wipe the slate clean. But I’m not entirely sure if the Thunder can afford to do something like that given their market. This is a team that has yet to test its small fanbase’s dedication with a truly dreadful season, and it’s entirely possible that even one Sixers-style season of tanking could send the franchise into a black hole.
Then again, would a few seasons of Oladipo and Adams grinding away without Westbrook enough to keep fans engaged? What I’m trying to say here is that the Thunder better pray Westbrook stays.