Examining offseason moves in the Northwest Division

Defending division champs Oklahoma City keeps core in place
by Aaron Lopez

Three weeks into free agency, all is quiet on the Northwestern front.

With the exception of Thabo Sefolosha leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Atlanta Hawks, no other Northwest Division team has lost a projected starter since the free agents could start negotiating with teams on July 1.

Don’t mistake the lack of free-agent movement for inactivity in the Northwest. The Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz have made moves to retain their own free agents or add through the NBA Draft.

In order of finish in 2013-14, Nuggets.com is offering a look at what each team in has done since the season ended last spring. Today, we examine Oklahoma City.

Background: Behind MVP forward Kevin Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook, the Thunder won 59 games and cruised to its fourth straight division title. Oklahoma City advanced to the Western Conference finals before falling to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs in six games.

Summer moves: Expectations are high in OKC, but the Thunder hasn’t overreacted with roster upheaval. After losing Sefolosha and veteran reserves Caron Butler (Pistons) and Derek Fisher (retired), Oklahoma City signed free agents Anthony Morrow and Sebastian Telfair. Both players are 3-point threats who can stretch the floor and provide offense off the bench.
The Thunder also added center Mitch McGary (Michigan), forward Josh Huestis (Stanford) and point guard Semaj Christon (Xavier) through the draft.

Big picture: With Sefolosha gone, there’s now an opportunity for Palmer High School graduate Reggie Jackson to move into the starting lineup. Jackson averaged a career-high 13.1 points last season and can play both guard positions alongside Westbrook.
Durant is coming off a career year in which he was the runaway scoring leader; Westbrook remains one of the premier point guards in the NBA; and forward Serge Ibaka is a perennial defensive player of the year candidate.

With its successful nucleus in tact, the Thunder will be the odds-on favorites to win the Northwest Division again.

Next Up: Portland Trail Blazers