The Thunder's trade of James Harden provided them with one player to help them win in a title this season (Kevin Martin, with an expensive expiring contract) and another piece that figures to be a long-term asset in rookie Jeremy Lamb.
The Thunder's early dominance, in spite of poor backup point guard production and no contributions from their rookies, had me thinking about a potential "win now" trade with a conference rival.
Dallas' O.J. Mayo has a very favorable $4M expiring contract that he's currently outplaying. He's positioning himself for a big payday in free agency on a Mavericks team that will struggle to make the playoffs even if Dirk can get back to full strength by midseason.
These are two teams in very different positions, and with the self-discipline and intelligence to recognize it. I'm thinking that Dallas could see Mayo's attractive deal as a trade chip to get better long-term while also punting on the 2012-2013 season.
For the Thunder, there's no time like the present. The Heat look eminently beatable, and the Thunder's 3rd or 4th best player (Martin) is very likely to be unaffordable next offseason.
It might be a good time to push the chips to the middle and offer Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones, and Thabeet or Reggie Jackson to the Mavs in exchange for Mayo. That's three intriguing, very cheap long-term developable assets to help the Mavs build for the future. My hunch is that the Mavs want to continue to have the roster flexibility to make a run at signing two from the trio of Bosh/Lebron/Carmelo two years from now, when Dirk's current deal expires. The best way for them to do that, without gutting the team completely, is to have very young players with potential on cheap contracts.
From the Thunder's side, Mayo essentially takes the combined minutes of Thabeet and the struggling Eric Maynor. It solidifies an outstanding eight-man playoff rotation with Collison and Perk rotating at center, and an incredibly talented six players getting all the minutes at the 1-4 spots on the floor (Westbrook, Sef, Mayo, Martin, KD, Ibaka).
I think that a bench lineup anchored by Mayo and Martin would be strong enough to allow both KD and Westbrook to be on the bench at the same time occasionally. And Mayo's size as the de facto backup point during the 10 minutes Westbrook is off the court would help allow the Thunder to occasionally play KD at the power forward and Ibaka at the 5.
The downside is, Mayo and Martin very likely would walk in FA after this season, and the Thunder would've lost a few young pieces that might've partially replaced Martin's production. But I think the Thunder are built to win now, and should seize an opportunity to get better if Dallas would approve that trade.
What do you think?