By Michael Doutey
Assistant Coach Departures
The Oklahoma City Thunder are off to an odd start to their offseason. OKC has reportedly lost three assistant coaches over the past few weeks. Bob Beyer, who was just here for one season, left for the Sacramento Kings to join Luke Walton’s staff. It is a bit of a weird move to leave OKC, a team which makes the playoffs every year for a team who has been a mess for over a decade. But losing Beyer isn’t a huge deal. After all, he was just here for one season.
Six weeks after Kings hired Luke Walton, his staff has begun to take shape. Source tells @TheAthleticNBA Walton has added Bob Beyer (formerly OKC), Jesse Mermuys (Lakers), & Canadian coach Roy Rana as assts. Bobby Jackson to be Asst./player development. Likely adding 2-3 more.
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) May 28, 2019
But the losses of long-time assistants Mark Bryant and Darko Rajakovic stings. Bryant has been the big-man coach since the Thunder moved to OKC. He helped develop players like Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, Enes Kanter and more. Rajakovic has been with the organization since 2012 when he started out coaching the Tulsa 66ers. He worked his way up from the D-League up to the Thunder.
Both coaches were here before Billy Donovan and have been staples around the Thunder practice facility. Bryant and Rajakovic both are reportedly joining Monty Williams’ staff in Phoenix.
The Thunder will thus have at least three openings on Billy Donovan’s staff after two departures to Phoenix (Mark Bryant and Darko Rajakovic) and Bob Beyer’s move to Sacramento
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 4, 2019
The Thunder organization has been lucky with management and coaching continuity. The sudden exodus of assistant coaches has been shocking. Is something bigger going on leading to coaches leaving the Thunder for the Suns and Kings?
As odd as it is for Thunder fans, it’s as simple as these coaches just finding more long-term job security. With Billy Donovan entering the final season of his contract with no extension in sight, Beyer, Bryant, and Rajakovic might have been looking for security. For Bryant and Rajakovic, who previously worked with Williams in OKC, there was a comfortable spot to land their next coaching gigs. Especially for Bryant who now gets to mold super-talent DeAndre Ayton.
But it is concerning that the Thunder will have this much turnover heading into an incredibly important season. There is worry about how healthy Paul George will be at the beginning of the season while the Thunder are now having to re-piece their coaching staff.
Potential Trade of 1st Round Draft Pick
Earlier this week Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the Thunder might be looking to trade their first-round draft pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Charania sighted that the Thunder were looking to “relieve financial pressure.” (Read more here).
ESPN’s Royce Young said that he’s heard similar rumblings on The Monsters of the Midday on The Sports Animal.
.@royceyoung on with @markrsports and @DustyDvoracek: very possible that the Thunder could make a move with their first round draft pick due to significant financial restraints. Front office and ownership trying to balance between team needs and money concerns.
— The Sports Animal (@sportsanimal) June 5, 2019
The Thunder had one of the highest payrolls in the entire NBA as well as one of the most expensive tax bills in the history of the league. After three consecutive first-round playoff exits, ownership might have put their foot down on spending.
The Thunder possibly could be looking at pairing their 21st overall pick with a player on a contract the Thunder would like to dump. Players like Patrick Patterson and Andre Roberson, who are in the final year of their respective contract could be sent out. Another option is Dennis Schroder, who will make $31 million over the next two seasons.
The Thunder might be looking to move those players and a pick and in return bring back a player of need on a more manageable contract. Sam Presti isn’t someone who likes to make salary dumps without attempting to bring back some type of value in a trade.
We won’t have to wait long to find out what the Thunder plan on doing. OKC can’t make a move with their pick until draft night. The draft is two weeks away and that night might provide some insight on what type of offseason OKC might be headed towards.