The departure of Kevin Durant makes the Oklahoma City Thunder questionable in contending for the 2017 NBA championship title. According to the latest NBA rumors, the Thunder will be pursuing Jimmy Butler if the team struggles next season.
The 2016 NBA free agency marked the end of the ties between Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The 27-year-old small forward decided to join the Thunder’s West rival, Golden State Warriors. It took a month before Russell Westbrook finally decided to extend his contract and become the new face of the franchise.
It is undeniable that Kevin Durant is a big loss for the Thunder. His departure means a lot, especially for Russell Westbrook who will now be carrying all the loads on his shoulder. Several Western Conference teams have made a major improvement on their roster this offseason.
As many sports analysts predict, the 2016-17 NBA season will be tougher for both conferences. Kevin Pelton of ESPN created projections for each team for the 2016-17 NBA season. For the Oklahoma City Thunder, they ranked 6th in the Western Conference with 45.6 wins.
Last season, the Thunder managed to finish in the 3rd spot in the Western Conference with 55 wins. This prediction is expected since the Thunder just lost the most valuable player on their team. If the Thunder struggles next season, there are rumors that the team will pursue Bulls’ superstar Jimmy Butler in 2017.
When Russell Westbrook signed an extension, Blake Griffin’s name emerged as the Thunder’s top target in next year’s free agency. However, according to Fox Sports, Griffin is planning to re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers next summer.
According to Tony Heim of Fansided’s Thunderous Intentions, Jimmy Butler could be the top target of the Thunder in 2017.
“Jimmy Butler would be a solid fit for Oklahoma City, who is in need of an athletic small forward. Butler has been linked in trade rumors throughout the offseason, and the Thunder have the assets.” Heim said.
Butler will undeniably be the perfect replacement for Kevin Durant. He has shown his ability to become one of the best players in the league. Despite being a ball dominant, Butler’s athleticism would definitely be a good fit with Westbrook’s quick pace plays at the point.
Though acquiring Jimmy Butler will be quite impossible for now, Thunder general manager Sam Presti can surely find a way to make things happen for his team’s future.
Photo courtesy: @JimmyButler/Twitter