(Today we offer you part 2 of Tanner Bean's inaugural post. Tanner left Oklahoma many moons ago to head to L.A. to follow his dreams, but his heart is still that of a Thunder fan. To read part 1, please go HERE.)
Okay. Where were we?
All of last season I found myself wishing the Thunder had a "good" two-way player like Arron Afflalo or Wesley Matthews. Now the starting SG gig is up for grabs, so why can't they just go out and get Arron or Wes? Well, unfortunately it's not that simple. First of all, Matthews doesn't really make sense. I don't see Rip City breaking up their starting 5, and there's no way the Blazers would give him up for what the Thunder could realistically offer. Afflalo, on the other hand, makes sense.
Wait, wait, wait. The Thunder would have to trade for Afflalo, what about a Free Agent instead? There's not a ton of great options. Here's a list: Avery Bradley (really solid player, will cost too much though, he's also a bit undersized), Rodney Stuckey (eh), Jodie Meeks (not a good enough defender, feels like a perennial bench player), Evan Turner (eh), Gordon Hayward (can't afford him), Trevor Ariza (probably can't afford him), Shaun Livingston (can play the 2 but he can't shoot, best served as a backup Point Guard), Anthony Morrow (would love him as a 3 point specialist coming off the bench, but not a starter), Mike Miller (reference Anthony Morrow statement above), CJ Miles (not a horrible idea, pretty good on both ends of the court, but is there anyone better?), Alan Anderson (again, not a horrible idea, but is there anyone better out there?)
Yes. Arron Afflalo.
He's a very solid defensive player, he shot .427% from beyond the arc this last season, and he's just wasting away considering the Orlando Magic are still years away from contending. But more importantly, they drafted Victor Oladipo 2nd overall last year and they're back in the lottery this year with the 4th pick. Word on the street is that they'll likely draft Dante Exum or Marcus Smart. That means the Magic's Westbrook-like experiment of trying to convert Oladipo into a Point Guard is over. With Oladipo at the 2 and Exum/Smart running the Point, the Magic will have an exciting young backcourt and they don't need Afflalo soaking up their minutes.
Afflalo will make $7,562,500 this coming year and has a Player Option for 2015-16. He'll be 29 years old by the time next season starts. One cool thing to think about timing-wise - assuming Arron picks up his option - is that his contract will be up the same time that Jeremy Lamb's rookie contract ends. I think Lamb has a lot of potential, and after the next two seasons, the Thunder should know if he's going to live up to it or not. So, after 2015-16 the Thunder can either lock up Lamb with the money they were paying Afflalo, or they can let Lamb go (and possibly re-sign Afflalo).
Afflalo is really good, but is it even worth going down this rabbit hole? The Thunder has very little financial flexibility next year. This isn't untrue. Sefolosha's $3,900,000 comes off the books, but Durant and Westbrook's contracts jump up about a million each, and all the rookie contracts go up too. So that's basically a wash. But the Salary Cap is supposed to increase 5 mil next year, which helps tremendously. Also, Hasheem Thabeet's $1,250,000 contract isn't guaranteed if they're really pinching pennies.
But what does the Thunder have to give the Magic in a trade? First of all, one of their first round picks. The Thunder own the 21st and 29th.
Are you a moron?! This is the most loaded draft class EVER! Take it easy. The Thunder ain't getting Wiggins with the 21st pick.
But Presti has a knack for stealing great players with late First Round picks - Ibaka and Jackson were both 24th picks! True. But the Thunder is still a young team and they don't need two more draft picks riding the pine next year. In fact, two of the four youngsters on the Thunder's bench were lottery picks. They all struggled to find playing time this year. Adams will hopefully start next year, but either way, his minutes will definitely increase. With Butler not guaranteed to come back and Fisher now the coach of the New York Knicks, Lamb will likely get the opportunity that a lot of people wanted him to get this season. Jones and Roberson, however, will likely be sitting toward the end of the bench again next year.
What about trading up to get the 17th pick and drafting a Shooting Guard? And this dude's gonna start? I don't think so. Again, Lamb was a lottery pick and he still hasn't gotten his shot yet. Granted, a lot of that is on Lamb - he needs to get stronger and learn how to play defense. But the kid's got a lotta potential. #dontsleeponLamb!
In short: the Thunder doesn't need another young "project" at the shooting guard position. Roberson is another project himself. So is Alex Abrines. If the Thunder doesn't use one of their picks in the (hypothetical) Afflalo trade, then yeah, they should package them and move up in the draft (although they should draft a Power Forward or even a point guard because of the "Reggie Jackson" dilemma).
Okay, trade a pick. What else? Or who else? Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka obviously aren't going anywhere. Neither is Adams. I doubt Collison would get traded either. Nick means a lot to the Thunder organization and I fully expect him to become the Juwan Howard of OKC (after next season, Collison can sign Veteran Minimums till he's 50 years old as far as I'm concerned). But everyone else on the roster is expendable. I'd like to hold onto Lamb for the reasons I touched on above. And then there's Reggie. I'd love to keep him too, but the "dilemma" I mentioned might not make it possible. He wants to be a starter and he's entering his "James Harden Summer" so you never know what could happen. But this topic and what I'm calling the "Harden Cycle" deserves its own column. The last thing to consider in regards to Jackson: Orlando doesn't really need him considering they have Oladipo and will probably acquire either Exum or Smart on Thursday. Uh-oh, I feel a possible 3-team trade with Reggie coming on...
Or not. I don't know. The Reggie thing is complicated. And again, it deserves its own column.
So who does that leave then? Jones and Roberson. They all have potential upside as role players if they develop properly, but their trade value is pretty low.
Aren't you forgetting someone? Nope. Just saving my best (craziest) idea for last. Kendrick Perkins. There was no chance in hell the Thunder could've traded Perkins this season. Not even the worst GM would've taken him for two years at roughly 9 million per season. But now Perk's an Expiring Contract and that has value. The Thunder should "Okafor his ass"!
Don't worry if you haven't heard that phrase before. I just made it up. Let me explain...
Last October the Phoenix Suns traded Marcin Gortat to the Washington Wizards for Emeka Okafor, but a neck injury kept Okafor out the whole season, which means the Suns essentially swapped the Polish Hammer for a player who wouldn't see a minute of action. Why the hell did they do that? Because the Suns were planning to tank, so they were in the "collecting draft picks" business. In addition to Okafor and his busted neck, they received a protected first rounder from Washington (the Suns also dumped Shannon Brown, Malcolm Young, and Kendall Marshall on the Wiz).
Speaking of Phoenix... back in March I drove six hours to visit my old buddy Brad and we went to the Thunder/Suns game. Gerald Green lit the Thunder up for 41 points that night. His new career high. Not cool. But at least Brad and I were able to squeeze in dinner at Pizzeria Bianco - it's pretty much worth the six-hour drive itself.
My point: the Afflalo/Perkins trade isn't any crazier than the Okafor trade. Perkins, by sheer virtue of not being injured, would impact the Magic more than Okafor did the Suns, and the Magic also get a first round pick just like the Suns. And yes, I'd give up the Thunder's 21st pick in this deal if it came down to it. I'd throw in a random Second Round pick from 2027 as well. The biggest difference: the Thunder can't take on a salary dump in this scenario. I don't think that's a huge problem though considering the Magic's vets - Ronnie Price and Jason Maxiell - are both on non-guaranteed contracts. And it's not a bad idea for Orlando to hold onto Jameer Nelson's expiring contract for another trade down the line. Regardless, there's no way OKC can absorb Nelson's contract.
Taking all that into consideration, there's still a good chance the Magic wouldn't take the bait. But I think it's worth a try. I really do. And if anyone can pull it off, it's Presti.
Here's my sales pitch to Orlando's GM Rob Hennigan if I'm Presti: "Rob, listen, we both know Arron isn't in your long-term plan. He's way too good to bring off your bench, but if he starts he'll just stifle the development of your new backcourt. Hell, if you start Arron at small forward then he's doing the same thing to Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris. Also, you'd actually save a little money with Perkins coming off your books next season. But most importantly, think about Nikola Vucevic. Your Swiss big man is a stud, but he could still learn a ton from a rugged vet like Perkins."
(Quick aside between you and me: You know all those "intangibles" that Scott Brooks likes to use as excuses for bad play? The leadership, the toughness, yadda yadda. Well, those things are real. Brooks just overvalues them a tad.)
Back to Presti's pitch: "Rob, you were part of my staff when we traded for Perkins, so you know firsthand the kind of impact he had when we brought him to Oklahoma City. He changed the culture of our team, and the leadership and toughness that he taught our young players and our organization will be with all of us long after Kendrick is gone."
That last bit wasn't meant to sound so morbid.
Presti: "So whaddaya say, Rob? We'll give you a first round pick, and we'll even toss in Jones or Roberson if need be. They're both stellar young men that I hate to part with, but in the end, I think this is best for both of our teams in the long run. Do we have a deal?"
And if that doesn't work then just blackmail Rob. He worked with Presti for four years while he was in his 20's. I was 23 when I moved to Los Angeles, and that was more than enough time to confirm that there's not a lot do in OKC for a strapping, young twentysomething besides get drunk. And the best place to get drunk is a fine establishment called Night Trips - which is...you can probably guess. Trust me, my friends and I spent a fair share of our nights and paychecks there before my evacuation to La-La Land. And... I may or may not have paid a visit to Night Trips when I was back in town for X-Mas last year. And an "employee" may or may not have told me that a certain bearded former Thunder player used to spend a decent amount of time at the club himself. Look, if I'm a rich and successful 27-year-old Rob Hennigan that's stuck in OKC, you can bet your ass I'm hitting the club with Harden. Maybe there's some incriminating photos of Rob and the Bearded One floating around...?
Sorry. That was a weird tangent based solely on fabrication (except for the James Harden part). But Presti is Rob's old boss, and the two of them worked together for almost a decade between their days in San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Hell, they even both went to Emerson in Boston. It's time for Presti to cash in a favor with his old pal and get Afflalo.
Seriously though, if there's any clubbin' photos of Rob out there, then now's the time to use them!
Okay, okay. Enough about adult-themed venues. You just spent all that time in Part 1 of your column defending Perkins, and now you're hatching a scheme to get rid of him? Kinda sneaky, huh? Look, the Perkins stuff needed to be said. He gets blamed for way too much, and he's had a bigger impact than most OKC fans will ever admit. But I do think the team has largely outgrown Big Perk at this point.
Look at this starting five: Russell Westbrook, Arron Afflalo, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, and Steven Adams. Pretty damn sexy, no?
There has been some recent chatter again about trading for Iman Shumpert. I don't hate it. But he's nowhere near as good as Afflalo at this stage in their respective careers. And... it's time for the Thunder to go (realistically and responsibly) BIG! KD has two years left on his deal. He's just now entering his prime. Russ and Serge are too. Plus... the Clippers just sold for an insane 2 billion dollars. LeBron opted out. So did Melo. Is Pat Riley building a new super (evil) team in South Beach? A massive new TV Rights Deal is coming. The NBA is bigger than ever and its popularity is expanding faster than a Mogwai in a swimming pool.
I'm not sure if that analogy makes any sense, but you get the idea. It's go-time!
I know the Thunder can't spend money irresponsibly like the "Big Market" teams. I understand and respect the plight of the Small Market. My miracle trade might be crazy - I'll admit that - but it's worth consideration. And if it worked then it could potentially save the Thunder from hitting the luxury tax next season.
In conclusion, the Thunder needs a new starting shooting guard. They don't need a $9 million dollar backup center. Can they fix these two issues with one trade?
Perkins for Afflalo works on ESPN's Trade Machine. Just sayin'...
One last thing. Sorry! I promise I'll make this short. There is a legitimate argument to be made that the Thunder did have enough talent on their roster to win a championship this year. If they would've had a better coach. But I'm tired of complaining about Scott Brooks (except for the occasional jabs throughout Part 1 of my column). Besides, it's more fun to dissect the roster and play pseudo-GM.
All of this long-winded, incoherent babbling and I still haven't discussed the Thunder's Big 3. Or most compelling of all: the "Reggie Jackson" dilemma and the Harden Cycle. More coming soon!