Welcome to Loud City, Taj Gibson & Doug McDermott!
As the NBA trade deadline drew near, Sam Presti did what Sam Presti does. He generally managed the heck out of this franchise. While there had been weeks of speculation and hearsay, the Oklahoma City Thunder fan base was getting nervous. Would Presti make a move or would he stand pat and ride it out until the NBA Draft?
The answer wasn’t a blockbuster deal that would replace the skinny guy that left last summer, but it was a solid deal that would ensure Russell Westbrook got some help (a common catch-cry of Thunder fans on every form of social media!!!) and it would assist the franchise moving forward.
The Oklahoma City Thunder trade Joffrey Lauvergne, Cameron Payne and Anthony Morrow to the Chicago Bulls for Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott and a 2018 2nd-round draft pick.
The Andre Roberson defenders were happy, the Singler haters were heated – but all in all – it was a good plan of attack and I’m going to let you know why. Keep reading.
The two biggest problems the Oklahoma City Thunder have had this season has been the reliance on young guys and horrible outside shooting. This trade looks to rectify both these issues on some scale, for at least the immediate future, and this season’s playoff run.
So far, the Thunder have been starting rookie Domantas Sabonis at the power forward spot. The kid with incredible talent and pedigree has been serviceable, but has been thrust into a more prominent role than the Thunder would have liked to give him so early on.
Now, OKC has the chance, or should I say the luxury, of allowing Sabonis to come off the bench while not having to bang against the veteran starting four men in the league. More importantly, though, the Thunder have a rental (Gibson is a free agent after this season) of a serviceable veteran big to help mentor the young frontcourt, while also providing leadership and rim protection alongside Steven Adams in the starting unit. Yes – I am assuming Gibson will start and I see no reason he wouldn’t as he fits very nicely along side Funaki.
Gibson brings eight years of NBA experience to the youthful Thunder, along with his 11.9ppg and 7.0rpg (in 27 mpg) and over 50 games of post-season experience. That warrants taking on the extra money (Lauvergne was on pittance in comparison) and is a much better fit with the team structure now that Enes Kanter appears likely to return after his freak “chair punching” injury. In short, it’s a special if unheralded move that makes the Thunder better.
Now let’s address the second and more critical piece to the trade deadline deal puzzle. Outside shooting.
While OKC let go a career 41% 3PT shooter in Anthony Morrow, they actually moved a veteran shooter who was too one dimensional to fit alongside the rest of the roster. Terrific team guy, ultimate professional, but just not the right man for the job anymore. They have now brought in that floor spacing, shot creating, wing help that has been so blatantly lacking through the first 50+ games of the season in Doug McDermott.
Dougie McBuckets is exactly what the Thunder need – a small forward who can play the four spot in small-ball line ups, someone who can shoot the ball from range (career 40% from 3pt range, this season 38%) and space the floor to allow Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams to do their damage inside. He is younger, bigger and a little more versatile than Morrow and is still on a very cap-friendly deal too.
McBuckets will benefit from the attention Westbrook draws, and I’d suggest that with Russ firing him the rock, his shooting percentages will rise. We have all seen just how effective the Houston Rockets offence has been for James Harden when he has shooters at all positions. Consider McDermott the equivalent to Ryan Anderson – that might be enough to get you more than just a tad excited. While Billy Donovan will now be entrusted to make the most of the talent (he is likely to use McDermott for added scoring punch to the bench – and no, not punch bench literally, Enes!) he now has some intriguing pieces to work with.
Lastly, the elephant in the room is still the defense. McDermott isn’t great, but he’s not awful either. He will give you effort and work hard, but he’s certainly no stopper – but do you know who is? Andre Roberson, the guy we DIDN’T have to give up (and the Bulls apparently wanted him) in order to get Gibson and McDermott. And believe me, that is a real positive – whether you want to admit it or not. Roberson’s strengths can be utilized and flaws can be largely hidden with the addition of Doug playing next to him.
The proof will be in the pudding. On paper, it appears as though this trade deadline roster tweak was the right move. It wasn’t headline grabbing, it wasn’t big time – however, it was the right deal at the right time for the right team. And isn’t that why we love to #TrustInPresti ?