Thunder off-season action answers questions, creates new ones

Mitch McGary an Oklahoma City Thunder draft pick poses for a portrait during a 2014 NBA shoot  on June 27, 2014 at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Layne Murdoch Jr./ Getty Images)

Mitch McGary an Oklahoma City Thunder draft pick poses for a portrait during a 2014 NBA shoot on June 27, 2014 at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Layne Murdoch Jr./ Getty Images)

When the Oklahoma City Thunder starts training camp on Sept. 29, several new additions will be in the gym to help the team contend for an NBA championship once again.

But how will those puzzle pieces fit? How will the Thunder answer questions that have been asked since the team lost to eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals in May?

We probably won’t get all the answers until the regular season begins, but we can take something from the Thunder’s offseason transactions so far. Here’s a recap and what it might mean heading into next season.

Free agency

Roster spots began opening up after veteran guard Derek Fisher retired in June to accept the New York Knicks head coaching job. On July 15, word came that scorer Caron Butler had signed a free agent contract with the Detroit Pistons, and the Thunder announced a sign-and-trade deal sending defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha to the Atlanta Hawks, opening a starting lineup spot.

While Oklahoma City lost the Pau Gasol sweepstakes, they did land journeyman guard Anthony Morrow, a pure shooter who connected on 45.1 percent of his three-point attempts (fourth in the NBA) while averaging 8.4 points, and 1.8 rebounds in a career-high 76 games last season with New Orleans. With a career 42.8 percent three-point shooting average (third highest amongst active NBA players), Morrow should help space the floor for MVP Kevin Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook.

“With his body of work, we feel Anthony is a unique addition to a diverse roster, while also possessing the toughness and selflessness that we are consistently seeking in Thunder players,” Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti said.

According to reports, Morrow’s three-year deal is worth $10 million.

Anthony Morrow #3 of the New Orleans Pelicans takes a shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder during an NBA game on April 14, 2014 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images)

Anthony Morrow #3 of the New Orleans Pelicans takes a shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder during an NBA game on April 14, 2014 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images)

The Thunder also signed guard Sebastian Telfair, who joins the team after playing last season with Tianjin Ronggang in China, where he averaged 26.1 points, 6.0 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.03 steals in 35 games. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but in Telfair, the Thunder get a third point guard to replace Fisher.

Once a highly touted prep recruit, Telfair was picked 13th in the 2004 NBA draft and has since played for seven different NBA teams.

“(Telfair’s) competitiveness and work ethic have complemented his on-court leadership skills throughout his career,” Presti said.

The Thunder also re-signed forward Grant Jerrett. Jerrett was on the team roster to end the regular season and throughout the playoffs but did not appear in a game. Last year, he appeared in 27 games (25 starts) for the NBA Development League Tulsa 66ers, where he averaged 15.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

Jerrett did not play in the Orlando Summer League due to ankle surgery, but the Thunder think the 6-foot-10-inch perimeter shooter can play a stretch-four. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, however, RealGM.com reported it was a “multi-year deal.”

Draft picks

The Thunder selected Michigan forward Mitch McGary with the 21st pick and Stanford forward Josh Huestis with the 29th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. The team announced on July 5 it had signed McGary to a rookie contract.

McGary, heir apparent to Nick Collison, shined during the Orlando Summer League, averaging 14.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. McGary has the physical attributes to play the four or the five but also the basketball IQ to be a good passer and teammate, Presti said on draft night.

“He’s able to guard multiple positions,” he said. “He may be one of the best athletes to have walked through our gym.”

Huestis, who fits the Sefolosha mold, is an athlete who can impact the game on the defensive end, Presti said.

“(Huestis) has the size but also the speed to deal with a lot of different situations on the floor,” he said.

Oklahoma City also acquired the rights to guard Semaj Christon, the 55th overall pick, from the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for cash considerations.

Who will start?

That’s the golden question. The first option is Reggie Jackson. The fourth-year point guard started 36 regular season games last year, posting career high averages of 13.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. Jackson started four playoff games alongside Westbrook against the Spurs. During exit interviews after the season ended, Jackson said, “I’d like to be a starter. I’m not going to lie.”

Also consider second-year player Andre Roberson. Due to injury, he started 16 regular season games as a rookie. A fierce defender and rebounder with a developing offensive game, Roberson bounced back and forth between Oklahoma City and Tulsa last year.

Jeremy Lamb might be a good candidate. He appeared in 78 games off the bench during the regular season, averaging 8.5 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists, although his minutes were diminished in the playoffs. Newcomer Morrow could be in the mix as well.

Print: Thunder Wonder

Brendan Hoover

This article was written by an Oklahoma Gazette contributor. To reach an editor, please email jchancellor@okgazette.com with this story's headline in your subject line.

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