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December 22, 2008

Thunder Inks Krstic to Offer Sheet

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 5:47 pm

The Oklahoma City Thunder officially signed center Nenad Krstic to an offer sheet Monday, giving the New Jersey Nets a week to decide whether to match the offer. This is an unorthodox situation, certainly, with Krstic buying out his contract in Russia midseason to return to the NBA. The Thunder met Krstic’s needs, with free-agent money left to burn (the offer was made from OKC’s leftover mid-level exception) and a hole in the middle.

Surely, the Nets, who have drafted centers in the first round each of the last three years (Josh Boone, Sean Williams and Brook Lopez, with the latter looking like their answer at the position), will have little interest in matching this offer–especially if the third year is guaranteed, which would mean cutting into the cap space they’re stockpiling for the free-agent bonanza of 2010. Oklahoma City will have a tougher time bringing in a marquee name that summer (and, depending on how things play out, may still have tons of money under the cap), so this deal isn’t very harmful from that perspective.

The question, then, is whether Krstic can be the answer the then-Sonics looked for at center for the better part of two decades after trading away Jack Sikma. I think a lot of that rides on whether the Thunder sticks with its current lineup of Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. As I noted last week, while that unit has helped Durant get going, it has been abysmal defensively.

Krstic is an upgrade on the guys Oklahoma City has been running out there at center, all of whom are undersized for the position or naturally power forwards. Still, he’s a below-average rebounder and not much of a shot-blocker, so I’m not sure you can build the kind of defense Thunder GM Sam Presti envisions with a Green-Krstic pairing up front, considering the former is a liability on the glass as well. If this is more about stockpiling assets, then Krstic–if fully recovered from the torn ACL he suffered during the 2006-07 season–could be a nice chip with a very tradable contract or could fit well alongside a stronger power forward. If the Thunder has already built its future frontcourt, I’m underwhelmed.

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