Since we like to deal in the hypothetical and off the wall craziness, let me throw out one of the most off the wall scenarios that could present itself should the Thunder win the draft lottery and receive the 1st pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
- Thunder win the #1 pick in the NBA Draft lottery*
- The Thunder draft Karl-Anthony Towns and then re-sign Enes Kanter.
- The Thunder package Kanter and Towns to the Sacramento Kings for Demarcus Cousins and Ben McLemore. They would have to wait 30 days for this trade to take place, but the salaries work.
Before you think I'm CRAZY, here me out.
How the Salaries Work
Cousins and McLemore make a combined $17.7 million in salary. The #1 pick, per the 2015 rookie salary scale, will earn $4.6 million. The rule for taxpaying teams is that they can take back up to 125% of their outgoing salaries, plus $100,000. Therefore, the magic number that OKC would need to get to is (17.7-0.1)/1.25, or about $14.1 million. Subtracting the mandatory rookie salary, the Thunder would have no difficulty satisfying the trade value stipulations, since Kanter might be satisfied with a new contract in the $12 million range. While Kanter likely wants more than that (he was rumored to be seeking a max deal from the Jazz before he was traded to OKC), he could be enticed to take less now with a shorter term contract, with an expectation of a much greater payday in 2016-17, when the new TV deal kicks into place.
Why this Trade Makes Sense for the Kings
The Kings are in a really crummy situation. They are in a situation where the prospects of attracting a big time free agent to pair with Cousins is all but impossible. All they have left is to attempt trades, overpay for mid-tier free agents, or trying to rehabilitate the careers of players that have fallen on hard times.
This trade would be different. It gives them a more than solid player at center in Kanter who is looking for his first big payday, gives them their power forward of the future in Towns, and they still would quite possibly have the 7th pick in the draft. Lets say that pick turns into Mario Hezonja. The Kings would then have a core of:
While still young and inexperienced, this team would become incredibly talented, have a ton of upside, and lots of new energy to keep the Kings fanbase engaged as they completely re-imagine themselves under the veteran leadership of George Karl. Assuming they would have a season filled with growing pains, the Kings could find themselves right back in the lottery with a chance to land another impact player next year as well. Teaming a 2016 lottery pick with this core and allowing them to grow together would give the Kings the best chance to be competitive in the west. Not to mention that a free agent would probably be more willing to join this core of players than the current Kings Roster.
In fact, there is an interesting template for this scenario. In 2007, the Seattle Sonics traded All-Star and future Hall of Famer Ray Allen to the Celtics in order to procure the rights for the #5 pick, which turned out to be Jeff Green. OKC then paired Green with their other first round pick, a stringy kid named Kevin Durant, which kicked off the youth movement. They suffered through several losing seasons but in the process acquired more top draft picks, and grabbed Russell Westbrook and James Harden in the process, setting a course for what is now known as the Thunder template.
Why this Trade Makes Sense for the Thunder
The Thunder would add Cousins, who is easily one of the best power forward/centers in the NBA. Cousins is probably less than thrilled with the current state of the Kings roster. If he follows in the same path as many of the stars in the NBA, he will either demand a trade or leave in free agency. Teaming him with OKC gives Boogie likely the best chance in the NBA to win a championship. Cousins is signed through the 2017-2018 season.
While McLemore is still far from a finished product, he is a much more natural fit for OKC's shooting guard needs than anything they currently have on their roster. In fact I wouldn't be shocked if he started.
The potential starting 5 for the Thunder in this scenario would be Cousins, Ibaka, Durant, McLemore, and Westbrook.
Imagine a Thunder team with this roster
- Center: Cousins/Adams
- Power Forward: Ibaka/Collison/McGary
- Small Forward: Durant/Singler/Huestis
- Shooting Guard: McLemore/Morrow/Waiters/Lamb/Roberson
- Point Guard: Westbrook/Augustin
How crazy am I? Let me know in the comments below!