The trade deadline is over and the Oklahoma City Thunder are one Randy Foye greater than yesterday. Foye, of course, is exactly who they needed to tango with the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs.
(I'm joking. Although Marina argues otherwise.)
Foye is 6'4, has made 29.6 percent of his three-pointers this season and is an average defender on a blue moon. That three-point percentage will probably rise closer to 40 percent and by all accounts he's an outstanding locker room guy, but this really isn't the move that the Thunder needed. Maybe it was the best they could make with the spare parts that they shipped out (D.J. Augustin, Steve Novak, some second-rounders), but therein lies the problem: the Thunder, in need of an extra push to break into that Warriors/Spurs tier more than anyone else, only bartered with spare parts.
They have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. There's a non-zero chance that they can beat the Spurs in a seven-game series, and even the Warriors. But tell me in specific terms, how do they accomplish that? How do they plan to stop the Steph Curry/Draymond Green pick-and-roll, which no one has proven able to do yet?
My first thought is to field a small-ball lineup with Durant at the four and Ibaka at the five, but the Thunder just don't have any depth. Their wings are either specialists (Andre Roberson, Anthony Morrow) or an unfulfilling 3-and-D caricature (Foye, Dion Waiters, Kyle Singler). At the highest level, that supporting cast isn't good enough to win a championship. I feel very strongly about this: the Thunder needed to make a significant move for a big, two-way wing.
We can dig into which players may or may not have been available later, and certainly the asking price for such a player would be ridiculously high. But that circles back to my original point, that the Thunder needed to up the ante. They don't have much in trade assets, but in the year of Kevin Durant's free agency, there's no reason to leave anything on the table. Based on public knowledge, Durant is almost definitely staying, but do you want to leave that up to chance? If I were in his shoes, it'd be very compelling to cross over to the much easier Eastern Conference with the Washington Wizards, or just join the Warriors.
I'm not overly surprised that the Thunder didn't trade Steven Adams or Cameron Payne and I don't know that they didn't make an effort to, but trading one of those two would've likely done a lot more for their title odds than trading for Foye. (Mitch McGary gets an honorable mention, but he probably hasn't established himself enough yet.)
Ideally, the Thunder would've traded Payne. Adams is actually a significant contributor for the Thunder, and you can count those on one hand. He often goes unappreciated in the shadow of starrier teammates, but he's become an outstanding defender and even a pretty good dive man independent of Ibaka's rim protection and Westbrook's pick-and-roll creation. Against all odds, his field goal percentage is scraping 60 percent - Adams has a surprisingly soft touch, enough to hit the Kendrick Perkins memorial 6-foot baby floater over a rotating help defender.
You don't want to lose Adams (seriously, I think he's the reason for most of our readership), but at the same time, he's expendable and about to become very expensive. The Thunder just maxed out Enes Kanter, who I assume has little to no trade value on that contract, and Adams is eligible for extension this summer. Do you want to pay him $15 to 20 million at the same time as Kanter? Absolutely not, and in all likelihood, Ibaka and Westbrook can prop up much lesser centers. It wouldn't hurt the Thunder to turn to more small ball, either.
Still, Adams counts enough to matter, especially since Kanter is a wreck on defense. For all the good he does on the offensive glass and as an interior finisher, I'm not completely sure that he's playable against the Warriors or the Spurs in the playoffs. Which is why you'd rather trade Payne.
Payne's value is obvious, even if vague. He's only logged 459 minutes in his NBA career so far, but already it's looking like he'll have a career in the league as a pick-and-roll ball-handler with an outside shot to boot. More than that, the shroud of being a lottery pick in last season's draft still insulates his trade value. Augustin hasn't been any better than the rookie, but it would've been worth it to cash in Payne's untapped potential for something more tangible now.
Trading a rookie like Payne at this stage in his career doesn't fit with the Thunder's traditional team-building strategy, but this season hardly calls for more of the status quo. The Memphis Grizzlies traded Courtney Lee for a handful of second-rounders; surely they would've preferred Payne, and if the Grizzlies packaged Lee with Matt Barnes or Jeff Green (all expiring contracts), would that have been enough of a push in the short-term to justify it?
The jackpot would've been to get Jae Crowder or Avery Bradley from the Boston Celtics, although there might never have been a workable deal there. I'd jump at the chance to trade Adams, Payne, McGary and Novak for Crowder and Tyler Zeller, but there are compelling arguments that both sides might've refused that.
Maybe Robert Covington, locked up through 2018 at just over $1 million per year, could've been had? Kyle Korver, Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, Al-Farouq Aminu, Omri Casspi... we're digging deeper and deeper now, and not all of those guys are worth giving up Payne and Adams without getting more back. But you get the idea: a two-way player that opposing teams would've had to respect on both ends and could add a layer of lineup flexibility for the Thunder would've been invaluable in their playoff hunt.
It's a moot point now. We have Randy Foye, and I guess we're ready to take on the world.