Implications of Thunder’s First Round Exit

Russell Westbrook spent the majority of the 2016-2017 season shouldering most of the load for the sixth-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder.


Even with two perennial all-star additions, he ended the Thunder’s 2017-2018 postseason run attempting to carry that same weight.


Questions about the future envelop Oklahoma City after their game 6 loss to the Jazz in Utah, with Paul George becoming a free agent and a large player option for Carmelo Anthony looming.  Those two, who have combined for 15 all-star appearances, put up 12 points for the Thunder in that game while Westbrook went for 46.


George will have a number of suitors after averaging 21.9 points per game on 43% shooting in his first season on the Thunder at the age of 28.  His interest in the Los Angeles Lakers has been well-documented, most notably last summer when the organization was fined $500,000 for tampering with George while he was still under contract with the Indiana Pacers.

The 32-year-old Anthony is still playing out his contract that he signed in 2014 with the New York Knicks, which includes one more year that would pay him nearly $29 million on a player option.  Anthony is expected to claim the remaining year as it is unlikely that he finds another contract as valuable as the one he is already under.


With his play on the court in decline, Anthony has made it clear that he would not accept a role coming off the bench.  This could cause issues with the Thunder’s coaching staff and front office if he decides to remain with the team.


And, despite being the first player in NBA history with back-to-back seasons averaging a triple-double, questions have started to arise in regards to Westbrook’s efficiency as well as his ability to lead a team.  According to, Westbrook finished just outside of the top 10 in player efficiency ratings, behind guards James Harden, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, and Kyrie Irving.  His potential to fill up the stat sheet is unquestioned, but can he maximize the abilities of his teammates?


The question that ultimately faces the Thunder deals with the ceiling that this trio has the potential for.  While Westbrook and George play out the prime of their careers, Anthony appears to be well past that point.  Additionally, the money to re-sign George and keep up with Anthony’s contract would be substantial and prevent the team from obtaining pieces that could possibly help them more.


Either way, Russell Westbrook seems to be the one definite regarding the organization’s future.  His efficiency and the he decisions that will be made surrounding him will determine if Oklahoma City will take the next step.