As we approach the February 23rd trade deadline, speculation seems rampant that the Thunder will make some type of move, yet they still haven’t pulled the trigger. They were tied to Rudy Gay (and he might well have been on the Thunder roster by now) but he is now finished for the season with a ruptured achilles. Everyone wants Jimmy Butler or Paul George, but those guys appear to be pipe dreams unless you want the Thunder to part with both Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo in return.
Carmelo Anthony trade rumors are out their and have at least a shred of legitimacy, but the Thunder would have to give up Enes Kanter (who is out till at least after the trade deadline) in order to make salaries work. The NBA allows for injured players to be traded, but this one appears to be a longshot. Even if the Knicks and Thunder wanted to make a deal happen, Carmelo holds a full no trade clause, which essentially means he controls every scenario in which the Knicks would include him in a trade.
People have speculated about guys like Otto Porter, but the Wizards appear to not only be fighting for a legitimate playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but are expected to bring Porter back as he enters restricted free agency.
We even have some Wilson Chandler talk that has popped up in the last few days.
So the biggest question is where do the Thunder turn in their never ending quest to assemble a roster that can re-ascend to the tops of the NBA?
Let me say before I speculate on trades, that I believe the Thunder will face a situation where it becomes necessary to go all in so to speak. If they don’t a very real scenario exists where the Thunder will waste Russell Westbrook’s prime years. This team is very young and very talented, but I don’t see a scenario where the team as currently constructed allows them to be anything more than good. If the Thunder don’t cash in on the young assets they have (or will have through development) they could face a very realistic scenario where Russell Westbrook’s domination and conquest of the entire NBA results in first and second round playoff exits at best.
I believe Russell Westbrook has approximately 3-4 more years of prime basketball before his body begins to break down and begins to resemble Dwyane Wade and not the destroyer of worlds that he is now. Basically if you want the best Thunder team possible during Russell Westbrook best remaining NBA years (and I would argue the Thunder’s best chance for a championship) a pretty significant move will have to be made (unless you believe that everyone on the Thunder roster will reach their ceiling and have no issues in the next 3-4 years).
All of that doesn’t mean however that the Thunder have to make a massive move before the trade deadline. I don’t see any way that any realistic trade puts the Thunder in a position to compete with the Warriors or Cavs. Further if you bring in a veteran wing player now, you inevitably find yourself cutting minutes for guys like Alex Abrines and Jerami Grant, which will impede their development.
SO will the Thunder make a move?
History says yes. The Thunder are always active at the trade deadline, and Sam Presti is not afraid to pull the trigger on a deal that can dramatically alter the Thunder roster. I do believe that Presti needs to add the right player however and not overreact. For example, there was a time that I was cautiously on the trade for Rudy Gay bandwagon. The trade would have likely looked something like Cameron Payne + some combination of Singler/Morrow/Abrines/Huestis for Rudy Gay. The problem with this trade would be the impending free agency (at least before the achilles injury) of Rudy Gay. Further what we’ve know seen in Abrines would make me very hesitant to include him in a trade for a player like Gay.
Basically Presti can’t mortgage the future for someone that may be too costly to re-sign. Rudy Gay pre-achilles would have like commanded 18-20 million per year in free agency.
So if you can’t get a superstar (Butler, George) then I would be VERY cautious with what deals are made. Here are a list of players (minus Carmelo) that I believe would make sense for the Thunder, but the deal would need to be just right.
- Robert Covington
- Wilson Chandler
- Shabazz Muhammad
- Tim Hardaway Jr
- Wilson Chandler
- Will Barton
- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (If you intend to move Andre Roberson in a trade)
- Bojan Bogdanovic
- Tobias Harris
- Courtney Lee
- Omri Casspi
- Danilo Gallinari (but only if you are incredibly sure you can re-sign him)
- Stanley Johnson
- Mario Hezonja
As far as the players the Thunder would be willing to move in a trade, the list is likely the following: Cameron Payne, Anthony Morrow, Enes Kanter, Alex Abrines, Semaj Christon, Andre Roberson, and possibly Domantas Sabonis. That’s not exactly massive or overly desirable trade chips.