An Offseason Mistake That Is Costing The Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder have been trying to get Dion Waiters involved as a part of their team. They tried him in a few different roles last season when they acquired him from Cleveland at the trade deadline. The results were sporadic at best and he did not help them as much as they thought he would. This offseason, the Thunder made a coaching change and also were thinking of signing Waiters to an extension. Both sides were unable to agree on a deal however. But the Thunder expected as Waiters got more comfortable beside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, that he would produce better numbers. He was put in the Sixth Man role and recently has been starting for the Thunder. And even with more familiarity with Westbrook and Durant, he is still get the same type of numbers while playing some lackadaisical basketball still. Add what he is producing with the starter for most of the season at shooting guard, Andre Roberson, and the Thunder still have that hole at the shooting guard position. But if they actually looked down the bench some last season, they may have had the answer right there with them.
Jeremy Lamb has had a career in the NBA that has been known more for who he was traded for them what he has done. For those that may have forgot, Lamb was a player that was included in the trade Houston made for the services of James Harden. When he was acquired in Oklahoma City, it was almost a foregone conclusion that he was going to eventually be the starting shooting guard for them. Well, that never materialized in OKC and he was eventually buried on the bench there. Even though he was a guy that shot the ball relatively well and could defend his position, there seemed to be a short leash with him in OKC under the coaching of Scott Brooks. In games where Durant, Westbrook or both would be out, Lamb would have some good shooting games and others where he would go missing. But even with that, he was still competitive on the defensive end more than Waiters was and gave the Thunder more there. But because of the trade that was made for Waiters, it seemed like OKC was going to force Waiters upon that team to justify trading for him. As a result, this offseason Lamb was traded to the Charlotte Hornets for the services of veteran point guard Luke Ridnour (who was consequently waived by OKC soon after the trade) and a 2016 second round pick.
The trade to Charlotte was a now-or-never trade for Lamb. He landed on a team that needed him to play well on the offensive end. And since he has been a member of the Hornets organization, he has definitely done so. Lamb is averaging a career-high 10.8 points per game off the bench in 21 minutes per game. He is shooting 47% from the field, including 32% from the three-point line, and he is getting 5 rebounds a game. Lamb and Jeremy Lin (who combine to make the highest scoring bench duo in the NBA) have helped Charlotte make it to the seventh spot currently in East. He is making the most of his opportunity and will more than likely be getting paid next season because of it. Taking a look at his numbers, he has actually performed better than Waiters in less minutes. Waiters is averaging 9.7 points per game while shooting under 40% and committing 2 turnovers a game. That isn’t exactly what the Thunder were looking for off the bench this year. And despite the success the Thunder have had this year, they could use a consistent shot in the arm off the bench. And Waiters has yet to provide that consistently. The Thunder thought they were getting that from Dion, but they have not got that one just yet at all.
Looking back at it, the Thunder really did not give Lamb a fair shot at all. If the organization would have stayed with him through the growing pains, he would have been the starting shooting guard for them right now. But instead of doing that, they thought Waiters was the answer. And with that, the search for a starting guard beside Durant and Westbrook still goes on. Oklahoma City has been known for grooming and growing players, but they dropped the ball on this move and it could cost them. Lamb would give them a shooter they need instead of a player they cannot trust.