OKC shopping should start with Carter

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com

The aging Vince Carter still has enough in his tank to put a contender over.

The aging Vince Carter has enough in his tank to give a title contender a significant boost.

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – As the free agency clock ticks down, the spotlight is shining brightest on Miami’s Big Three, on Carmelo Anthony‘s decision and on the Lakers’ wishful pursuit of a superstar (or two).

And then there’s that little ole team on the Oklahoma prairie that no one’s talking about. The one with the league MVP, the All-Star point guard and the game’s fiercest shot blocker. The one that’s played in three Western Conference finals in the last four years and if not for key injuries in these last two postseasons might have built upon its lone NBA Finals appearance in 2012.

The one that’s missing one final piece.

Oklahoma City Thunder enter free agency, not as big spenders and not needing much, but with a silver bullet in-hand (the full mid-level exception worth $5.3 million) and a specific target: A hired gun.

Signing a veteran knock-down 3-point shooter is crucial for this franchise on the doorstep. A Big Three of sorts that specializes in the long ball is set to hit the open market at the stroke of midnight: Vince Carter, Mike Miller and Mo Williams.

The 37-year-old Carter arguably stands as the most intriguing of the three, a reformed skywalker as he beats back Father Time and now a dead-eye 3-point shooter who has been called the league’s best bargain and most underpaid player during his three seasons with Dallas.

Carter, who has hit 40 percent of his 3s in the last two seasons with Dallas, and averaged 11.9 ppg last season, has stated his desire to remain with the Mavs, and Dallas wants him back. But Carter will also be pursued by a handful of contenders and teams on the verge of contending. A league source indicated that Oklahoma City, Miami, Toronto and Portland will give Dallas competition for Carter’s services.

Any one of those three free agents would be a boon to the Thunder’s second unit and each could play a key role spacing the floor and splashing open 3s while on the floor with league MVP Kevin Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook, who was headed to a fourth consecutive All-Star berth until another knee surgery forced him out just after Christmas.

The Thunder’s core — Durant, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka — is obviously set and they rely heavily on drafting and player development to fill key roles. Reggie Jackson has emerged as a terrific reserve point guard. Shooting guard Jeremy Lamb could potentially move into the starting lineup next season. The Kendrick Perkins problem was lessened last season with the emergence of 7-foot rookie center Steven Adams.

However, the 3-point shooting issue remains. Thabo Sefolosha lost his touch from the deep all season and specifically in the postseason. The Thunder’s defensive-minded starter the last five seasons is now a free agent, and will likely move on. Veteran small forward Caron Butler, an early March addition, shot poorly in the postseason and he, too, will likely be headed elsewhere. Jackson, although an improving 3-point shooter, was still just 33.9 percent last season. And Lamb, at 35.6 percent, struggled in the season’s second half and lost his job to Butler.

OKC does believe it could find in-house help from second-year stretch-4 Grant Jerrett, a 2013 second-round draft pick, who shot 36.4 percent from deep for the Thunder’s D-League affiliate in Tulsa, Okla. But the 6-foot-10 project out of Arizona didn’t play a minute for the big club once he was signed in April.

The 6-foot-8 Miller almost signed with OKC last summer after Miami used the amnesty clause to set him free, but he ultimately returned to Memphis, which finished last in the league in 3-point attempts per game. So he might relish a chance to play with two superstars in an offense that will guarantee him more looks.

Williams, who opted out of his final year in Portland at $2.8 million, is a terrific shooter and can switch between the 1 and 2. He lacks the size of the other two, but was a big part of the Portland’s surge last season.

Other free-agent candidates include Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, P.J. Tucker, Josh McRoberts and C.J. Miles.

Here’s a look at my top three:

 

Vince Carter 

Age: 37 (Jan. 26)

2013-14 salary: $3.18 million

2013-14 stats: 81 games; 24.4 mpg; 11.9 ppg; 3.5 rpg; 2.6 apg; 40.7 FG%; 39.4 3FG%

Pros: Has adjusted his game with his age to become a knock-down 3-point shooter — and he can still get to the rim more often than expected; a solid locker-room leader for a young team that probably grew up watching him in dunk contests; and Mavs coach Rick Carlisle has consistently lauded his defensive effort.

Cons: He’s prone to forcing too many contested jumpers; at some point the body is going to give out and Carter, although extremely well-conditioned, does turn 38 during the season.

 

Mike Miller

Age: 34 (Feb. 19)

2013-14 salary: $884,293 million (owed $12.8 million by Heat for 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons)

2013-14 stats: 82 games; 20.8 mpg; 7.1 ppg; 2.5 rpg; 1.6 apg; 48.1 FG%; 45.9 3FG%

Pros: Still a deadly 3-point shooter as Thunder fans can attest during the first round as they gasped in fear every time he lined up from the top of the arc; Just being on the floor would space it better than with any combination OKC put on the court last season.

Cons: He’s been susceptible to back issues, but he stayed healthy last season and played in all 82 games while still logging 20 minutes a game. He’s risky, but as just a threat to make 3s, is worth it.

 

Mo Williams

Age: 31 (Dec. 19)

2013-14 salary: $2.8 million

2013-14 stats: 74 games; 24.8 mpg; 9.7 ppg; 2.1 rpg; 4.3 apg; 41.7 FG%; 36.9 3FG%

Pros: He’s acknowledged he’s on the back portion of his career, so he knows his rightful place is coming off the bench and sparking a team with instant offense — exactly what the Thunder needs; can play the 1 and 2, and is a good passer.

Cons: His size could be a detriment since the Thunder are likely to let the 6-foot-5 Sefolosha walk in free agency and already have the 6-foot-3 Jackson likely coming off the bench. If Lamb proves he’s not ready to be a starter, OKC could prefer a two-guard with more size.

26 Comments

  1. Larry says:

    Vince should sign with Toronto and retire as a Raptor with number 15 hoisted to rafters. in 2 -3 years.

  2. jake s. says:

    To all people saying Vince is not a good fit in the Thunders lineup… you are daft. Carter possesses something that Scott Brooks lacks… leadership. He also happens to have what the thunder are in desperate need of… 40% 3 point shooting. Weather you think he would be better suited for Heat or Thunder depends on who you root for… The fact is that he is perfect for many teams because 1/3 of the league is desperate for a veteran 40% 3 point shooter.

  3. Adande says:

    Mike Miller
    2013-14 salary: $884,293 million (owed $12.8 million by Heat for 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons)

  4. matt says:

    if they need offense off the bench then jodie meeks seems like the best idea because he is instant offense and he puts pressure on the other team because he doesn’t stop moving!

  5. fourputtforsnowman says:

    In my view, OKC has issues to address because the other WC teams are also improving. They CANNOT continue playing RW and KD so many minutes without further injury or burnout. But they have no other scoring options other than Jackson. So yes, they need 3 point shooting to stretch the floor when KD and RW play, but they need some offense when those guys rest, and rest more they will have to do to play through June and win. So adding Carter, or Miller or someone similar, in my opinion, doesn’t solve their biggest issue: bench scoring without KD and RW on the court. Also, teams are learning to isolate and score against KD and SI more and more. Its working. SI fouls too much when he’s isolated (most of his excellence is helping others) and KD just isn’t that strong a one on one defender if you go straight at/through him. So I’d look to the Clip’s, Portland, Memphis to exploit OKC on these dimensions more (as well as the Spurs who already have done this some). Also, as KD and RW get older, the NBA ref’s will, I hope, stop giving them the benefit of the doubt. They never seem to foul and are always getting fouled. Its strange. Even that out and OKC is down 4-5 points per game, or more. They are a good team, but they will need some of their bench players to improve, substantially, this coming year to keep up with the other WC teams.

  6. Wabbajock says:

    “2013-14 salary: $884,293 million (owed $12.8 million by Heat for 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons)”
    …hands down Mike Miller has the BIGGEST contract in sports entertainment history…

  7. Ced says:

    It don’t matter who the MAVS get they are not going to win another ring !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Ben says:

    On Vince… “Cons: He’s prone to forcing too many contested jumpers”

    Huh? What year are we in? Is this 2014 or 2004? There are weaknesses in Carter’s game but “taking bad jumpers” is no longer one of them, and hasn’t been for quite some time.

  9. TTKIN says:

    U know what that one piece is that OKC is missing? A coach with a decent offensive system. Not a coach who trusts 2 out of 12 players to actually touch the ball.

  10. Edwordhdz says:

    I think V.Carter should re-sign with MAVS…

  11. Edwordhdz says:

    PG K.Lowery SG M.Ellis. SF L.Deng. PF D.Nowitzki. C T.Chandler

  12. Scisca says:

    They finally need a good big guy, that can give them some offence. They should do everything to get Gortat. An inside presence would make it easier for perimiter guys to score. Steven Adams can be a good sub, but not a starter.

  13. Chi1313 says:

    OKC needs a post player. They can not shoot any of the finalist out of the playoffs. Even though San Antonio shot at a high level it was Duncan taking it to Ibaka chest that put spurs over the hump vs OKC

  14. Markus71 says:

    If Vince Carter signs He might wanna stay out of the paint! Especially in practice!!

  15. Ato says:

    Vince should choose Mavs. If he lands at the wrong team then call it a career. He cant be as good in OKC as KD and Westbrook touches the ball 90% and remaining 10% with Ibaka ! No way he is going to shine in OKC or any other team at this stage. Stay with Mavs !

  16. Uncleshiesty says:

    “Mike Miller
    Age: 34 (Feb. 19)
    2013-14 salary: $884,293 million”

    Holy shiz! Why would mike miller want to play after making almost a billion in salary last year?

  17. Great blog Jeff

    Looking at all the names you mentioned, only Vince Carter is an improvement for OKC. All the others are useless for the team. Key in this case is also that OKC need a reliable “bench” player that can shoot & penetrate when necessary.

    Mike & Mo are used to that role but weak in the paint.Jodie, Nick and Josh should have starters ambition so might not like the role. Or OKC should replace Thabo.

    But ok, why not try to keep Caron Butler and get Vince Carter to complete the picture.
    Can you imagine this:

    Caron
    Vince
    Reggie
    Steve A
    Lamb

    And KD, RW, SI on the bench cheering with a towel in their hand!

  18. JM says:

    I think the offense of the Thunder is way too predictable. Yes, they have KD and Russ, but that’s all they use. Jeremy Lamb disappeared and so did Thabo and a lot of the bench guys. It has to start w/ their two allstars. If KD and Russ can’t make their teammates better, then it doesn’t matter who you’ll plug in there. Learn from the Spurs…

  19. Muskilla says:

    Okc needs a real big man.. Waived K-perk!!!

  20. Carlo says:

    The biggest problem for OKC is that they have a game like the Knicks’: two offensive players (like ‘Melo and JRSmith) keeping the ball for most of the 24secs and then shooting whatever the situation is. And then a big defender (TChandler, Ibaka) inside trying to fix all others’ defensive mistakes (or laziness).
    Maybe Sefolosha dropped his % but usually this comes out of distrust (as he surely did not dis-learn how to shoot), expecially when you see that all the team’s game sticks to “the guys” and you often get the ball in the last second before the 24s bell, out of despair for not having worked out the opponents’ D.
    I bet if Sefolosha goes to the Spurs, within a collaborative system – and some extra shoot teching by Engelland – he’d get back as a reliable 3pt shooter. And he still id one of the league’s best defenders.

    3pt shooters to Miami? Why don’t Wade take the pain of training his 3pt shoot, like a lot of intelligent veterans (Ginobili, Carter, Kidd) did? Maybe becoming the “backcourt guy” isn’t too “star-like”?
    Miami has way too much need of a center and a PG to waste precious money and salary cap to hire 3pt shooters.
    SA demonstrated that efficient 3pt shooting is not a matter of personal, player’s % but of sharing the ball so much that ANYONE beyond the arc can get an easy shoot.

  21. KratosRage says:

    I think VINCE CARTER should land on a team that will complement their starters, OKC…i really don’t think so because they have CARON BUTLER who is a deadly gunner but OKC didn’t maximize is capability, what more if CARTER is there. I think the spurs will be a perfect team for CARTER. with the emergence of LEONARD as a new SPURS star , CARTER should fit it perfectly with the system coming off the bench and besides, It’s an big opportunity for CARTER to get a ring…not with OKC (sorry to say).

  22. amitpal says:

    These guys? Id rather have cj miles or jodie meeks or pj tucker. They are younger and much better on defense. Plus miles and meeks are pretty experienced and in the prime of there careers. These three are old and are pretty bad defender. Although miller is just a sniper at the three point line. Might be the best catch and shoot guy in the game.

  23. TheKush says:

    Actually I think the Miami Heat would be a better destination for Vince Carter! He’d be the perfect compliment to replace Michael Beasley! while Wade inevitably gets injured they could throw in Vince Carter who to date has done an excellent job taking care of his body D. Wade could learn a thing or two about that. Vince Carter to me is a hall of famer!

    I can’t get that Olympic dunk outta my head! I don’t think OKC would be a good fit for Vince as long as Scott Brooks is coaching that team. Over the summer I hope KD develops a post game. There is no way in hell Chris paul should have been able to guard him the way he did. Scott Brooks did a horrible job when he played the Spurs I felt OKC was the one team that could have beat the spurs but Scott brooks didn’t trust his younger guys who at the very least could have gotten some more experience from that loss to the spurs!

    If LeBron is reading this tell Riley to pick up Vince Carter he’s a Floridian and a flat out legend! He’s RINGLESS! great under pressure and gives it his all every game! VINCESANITY IN MIAMI!!!

  24. Kimmy says:

    Get Vince Carter. ASAP!