(The 2013 NBA trade deadline is February 21st at 3PM ET. WTLC is exploring potential trade ideas that could bolster the Thunder's chances during their playoff run.)
Yesterday we looked at a possible trade scenario with the Phoenix Suns to improve the Thunder's back-up big man situation. Today we stay with the same teams but move up in the depth chart and look at OKC trading for Marcin Gortat.
Gortat has been in trade rumors for a while now. Phoenix was one of the teams in the running for James Harden last offseason, and Gortat was rumored to be a part of the deal, although obviously that eventually fell through.
Thunder center Kendrick Perkins actually dominated the match-up last night, outscoring Gortat 17-2, but don't worry, that just means it's the perfect time to do a buy-low/sell-high deal before leaving town on Sunday.
What the Thunder need:
A better starting center.
Kendrick Perkins in my opinion has been a disappointment during his time here at the Thunder. In the season before suffering his ACL tear, he averaged 10.1 PPG, and 7.6 RPG, and has since regressed every year and now only accounts for 4.7 PPGand 6.1 RPG. While Presti originally obtained Perkins due to his defensive ability against big men, the league, and most importantly Miami, has moved towards a ‘small ball' line-up. causing Perkins to be outmatched and out of position most defensive plays.
Scenario 1) The Phoenix Suns trade Gortat for Kendrick Perkins and Jeremy Lamb.
Scenario 2) The Suns trade Gortat and PJ Tucker for Perkins, Lamb, 29th draft pick in 2013 draft.
Scenario 3) The Suns trade Gortat and Shannon Brown for Perkins, Lamb, 29th draft pick in 2013 draft.
Scenario 4) The Suns trade Gortat and Wesley Johnson for Perkins, Lamb, and 29th draft pick in 2013 draft.
Scenario 5) The Suns trade Gortat, Johnson, Tucker, and Brown for Perkins, Eric Maynor, Lamb, and draft picks.
The Suns pieces
What Marcin Gortat offers:
While the Thunder will take a step back in low post defense, they pick up a player more compatible to the Thunder's offense. Gortat can spread the floor with his mid-ranger jumper, plays the pick-and-roll offense exceptionally well, and is an athletic big man who can run up and down the floor. Last year Gortat averaged 15.4 ppg and 10.0 rpg. Gortat's deal is ~500k/year less than Perkins, but is one year shorter, allowing the Thunder more flexibility moving forward.
What Wesley Johnson offers:
The 4th overall pick in the 2010 draft is currently in the final year of his contract and desperately trying to shed the ‘draft bust' label. After being named to the All-Rookie 2nd team, his career has gone downhill, he's only seen the court 20 times this season and averages 2.3 PPG. Johnson's value is his expiring rookie contract, which could free up some money to resign Kevin Martin.
What PJ 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. However, the Suns front office is very high on Tucker and will likely need extra incentive to part ways with him.
What Shannon Brown offers:
Brown can bring stability to the Thunder's backup point guard position. So far both Eric Maynor and Reggie Jackson have been relative disappointments in terms of their consistency this season. Shannon Brown gives the second team another offensive weapon, averaging 11.7 ppg, and allows Reggie Jackson to move into a SG type role, where he seems more comfortable.
The Thunder obtains a center that is more accustomed to the new small ball that is sweeping the league and can spread the floor with his midrange jumper. The Thunder seemed interested in Anderson Varejao earlier in the year, and Gortat is a very similar player in terms of his athleticism and rebounding. Tucker can assume some of the defensive responsibilities of the team. Johnson is a no-risk talent that opens up money to sign Martin, and Brown is a serviceable #2 guy. While they trade away a young prospect with a tremendous upside in Lamb, they maintain salary cap flexibility. OKC will also save around $10 million total from trading Perkins alone. If the Suns add Wesley Johnson to the deal, that number increases to around $17 million.
OKC also finally takes the worst contract on the team off the books. After trading for Perkins in 2011, the Thunder were eager to sign him to a long term deal, and perhaps overpaid for the defensive playmaker. He's simply never been able to reclaim his old form after tearing his ACL in the 2011 NBA finals. OKC also would shed Perkins' contract without using the Amnesty Clause, means that the Thunder would save money while retaining the clause flexibility for future decisions.
As for the Suns, they are currently last in the west and need to rebuild. They desperately need a SG, and like most rebuilding teams, need to try and acquire as many talents and picks as possible. Perkins offers them some stability at the 5 while they develop their players over the next few years, and improves their defense immediately, and a young prospect in Jeremy Lamb to develop for the future. Lastly, Perkins may not fill up the stat sheet like other centers, but he has proven that he is the kind of clubhouse leader that can greatly benefit a young team trying to find its identity and competitive mojo.
The Thunder would have to disrupt their starting line-up that got to the NBA finals just a year ago. Despite Gortat seeming like a better fit, the move mid-season might be too big of a risk to disrupt team chemistry. Gortat also is only under contract til the end of the 2013-2014 season, meaning the Thunder would once again be in the big man hunt in just a year and a half, and this time, with fewer assets.
OKC would also lose Jeremy Lamb, a player thought to have a lot of potential, and part of the Harden deal in October. The Suns would likely want to improve their draft positioning somehow through this trade, with either us giving up or swapping some picks.
The Thunder were lucky losing 1 important piece in the off-season didn't sink their team, are they willing the gamble again?