Oklahoma City Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder have become the NBA’s go-to luxury-tax punchline. That’s fine. Let the James Harden trade jokes flow. Some of them are funny. All of them are fair game.

But the Thunder’s steep operating costs have nothing to do with their proximity to title contention. They’re closer to the championship clique than people who’ve nike nfl jerseys for cheap forgotten about Andre Roberson think. As ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe wrote:

“They have a chance to be really good. The Thunder hit a winter groove after a rocky start and might have continued apace had Andre Roberson not ruptured his left patellar tendon. The [Russell] Westbrook/[Paul] George/Roberson/Steven Adams foursome was among the nastiest and best four-man groups in the league, per NBA.com. They get more time to jell now. They are short on shooting, but that’s not a new problem.nfl jerseys nike cheap

“This core won’t touch Golden State as long as all four incumbent Warriors stars stay healthy, but they can compete in the upper tier of the conference. Get there, and you are one big break away from something interesting.”

Cutting ties with Carmelo Anthony will amount to addition by subtraction. His divorce from the Thunder has been deemed an inevitability, according to cheap nike nfl jerseys china Adrian Wojnarowski. Their pecking-order concerns go out the window once he skips town.

George and Westbrook are more natural complements to one another and extra compatible when they don’t have to account for Anthony. Oklahoma City posted a plus-9.7 net rating in the time George and Westbrook played without him compared to a plus-6.1 when all three took the court together, according to Cleaning The Glass.

Replacing Anthony’s minutes may still be hard. The Thunder enjoyed limited success when subbing him out for Jerami Grant or Patrick Patterson, per Cleaning The Glass. But that says more about the teensy-tiny sample sizes than anything else.new nike nfl jerseys cheap

Grant and Patterson are both superior defensive options at power forward. Grant only needs to shoot something like 33 percent from deep to be a primo asset, and Patterson will look better after an offseason that doesn’t include left knee surgery. Oklahoma City could hit on some Alex Abrines and Terrance Ferguson lineup iterations as well.

Bake in the Nerlens Noel addition, and a fully healthy Thunder squad has the defensive switchability to make life hell on the NBA’s elite. If it turns out the Rockets really, really (really)cheap nfl nike jerseys china¬† miss Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, you could be looking at the West’s No. 2 seed. Seriously.