The NBA trade deadline is quickly approaching. Once February 21st at 3PM ET arrives, the Thunder team will be locked into place for their championship run.
Is the current team construct the absolute best it could be? Can GM Sam Presti make it better? Over these next two weeks we'll start analyzing and discussing these trade ideas and see if we can do a remote Vulcan mind-meld with Presti's inner genius.
(Follow all NBA trade rumors HERE)
First up is a trade proposal which comes from The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry:
It’s time the Thunder general manager listens to his fan base and go after the big man in Phoenix.
It’s time Presti makes a play for Jermaine O’Neal.
Another idea is for the Thunder to try to get P.J. Tucker in that package as well. Tucker is a bulldog defender, and, if nothing else, he’s another body the Thunder could throw at LeBron James in a potential Finals rematch.
Scenario 2) The Suns trade O'Neal for Maynor and a late round draft pick (29).
Scenario 3) The Suns trade O'Neal and P.J. Tucker for Maynor (with or without draft pick).
What the Thunder need:
A better back-up big man.
The Thunder have their rotation pretty well set on the front line, with Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka in the starting line-up, backed up by Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet. Thabeet has been better than expected, but because his success bar was set so low, that isn't too great an accomplishment. An upgrade in this back-up center position, even a marginal one, could pay big dividends as the Thunder go deep in the playoffs and need a versatile front line to deal with different teams.
What Jermaine O'Neal offers:
O'Neal is a veteran center who has played for championship contending teams. In about 16 minutes per game, he is averaging 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, and is shooting 49% from the floor. He is making only $1.4mm in the final year of his current contract, so he would not count anything against the Thunder's future cap.
What P.J. Tucker offers:
Tucker is a 2nd round draft pick who is getting about 22 minutes per game in Phoenix. He is averaging 5.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. He is a sturdy defender with a Thabo Sefolosha-type build. As a 2nd rounder, he is cheap, currently earning only $762K per year with an option to pick up another year remaining on his contract.
The Thunder shore up their 2nd unit front line. Thabeet is learning his role, but he is still limited offensively and defensively. Another big man with a better feel for the game might work better, both with Nick Collison, as well as backup PG Reggie Jackson.
Tucker would indeed bring another body to bang against guys like LeBron, along with an additional 6 fouls.
The Thunder would lose Eric Maynor, who is a playoff-tested veteran, is greatly respected by his teammates, and has been the consummate professional while watching Jackson slowly eat up his minutes as the back-up PG. This would leave the Thunder with only 2 PG's on their active roster. However, as Mayberry notes in his story, Durant plays the point position so much these days that it would hardly be felt.
The Thunder could also potentially lose that low-round draft pick. OKC has thus far been fortunate in who they draft with these late picks, but they aren't finding the real gems that could greatly improve their overall team - a talented young big man. Losing a 1st round draft pick means that they lose a bargaining chip which would allow them to jump up higher in the draft, if such a player comes available.
ESPN Trade machine says:
O'Neal for Maynor: YES
O'Neal and Tucker for Maynor: YES
What do you think?