The Oklahoma City Thunder started this season with a ton of optimism. After acquiring Paul George and Carmelo Anthony for next to nothing, the team was expected to challenge the West's elite.
But just 27 games into this season and those optimistic feelings are quickly starting to turn to regret. The offense is struggling, the stars are inconsistent, and the team just looks like an un-orchestrated mess. Simply put, OKC is nowhere near where they expected to be after having such an amazing summer.
To make matters worse, PG and Melo are both free-agents next year, meaning the consequences for underperformance are even more severe. Still, the Thunder are not about to give up... not yet.
USA Today's Sam Amick discusses the current state of the Thunder, and what their next course of action may entail -
The league is watching the George situation very closely, and there’s a general belief that the Thunder will have to act if they haven’t significantly improved a few months from now (there are 29 games left before the deadline). With every George trade inquiry – whether it’s Presti on the call or recently returned front office mate/former Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan, who often handles such discussions for OKC – executives will be eager to exploit the situation.
It seems every GM is keeping a close eye on the situation. But as Amick goes on to explain, the Thunder probably won't get much for him, as he's still expected to sign with the Lakers in the upcoming summer:
Rival executives will argue that his value is depressed because of the alive-and-well rumor he is headed for the Lakers, knowing full well that the Thunder don’t want to lose a superstar for the second time in three summers after Kevin Durant. The lack of leverage, if nothing else, could compel the Thunder to see this through until the summertime.
The bottom line? The Thunder need to pull things together. Without strong evidence that PG won't be a Laker next season, OKC has no leverage in any deal. Considering Carmelo Anthony is probably not likely to stay either, it leaves the team with very little options moving forward.
If they can't improve, the franchise could be headed for a serious nose-dive.