The team still does have two open roster spots, and still has a need for another wing player and maybe one more big man. With the trade deadline passed, various players will start getting bought out of their reaming contract by their teams who may not have a role for them, leaving them free to sign with other teams. As a lock for the playoffs, OKC could be an appealing destination for such players.
Let’s take a look at some of the players who have been bought out, and rate their fit with the Thunder while we’re at it. We’ll update this list as more guys get bought out.
Ellington is one of the best shooters in the NBA, but found himself out of the rotation in Miami, mainly because Miami has a surplus of average wing players more than any fault of his own. Ellington isn’t much of a defender, or really anything other than a shooter.
But what a shooter he is — 39% on 7+ 3-point attempts last year. He would be a huge upgrade on Alex Abrines and Hamidou Diallo as a bench wing, and his scoring ability could help OKC survive the minutes Paul George rests. Of course, Ellington’s shooting means he will be coveted by a huge number of playoff (or playoff adjacent) teams looking to shore up their roster. The 76ers stand out as a team in desperate need of shooters (and really just bodies). The Pistons (still pushing for the 8th seed!), Jazz, Lakers (if they don’t use their empty roster spot on Thunder Legend Carmelo Anthony first) and even Warriors could all also use his services.
Fit with OKC: 8/10
You’d like to see a little more defense, but given that he’d be taking the role of other defensively challenged players, it’s not a huge issue- and his shooting would make a difference.
***Update: Ellington is most likely headed to Detroit, per Woj***
Within a week of declaring they would never tank, the Wizards started tanking, swapping Otto Porter for Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker (the ultimate tank commander), and then dumping Markieff Morris to the Pelicans to clear salary. The Pels, also in tank mode even with Anthony Davis staying in town, promptly waived Morris.
Morris has been out since January with a neck injury, and it’s unclear what his status is. If healthy though, Morris can be a very useful player- he is best offensively and defensively at the 4. He’s a decent defender who brings a level of toughness that OKC should appreciate, and on offense he’s an average 3 point shooter and finisher at the rim- he won’t wow on that end, but he won’t sink the team either and can hit a few shots when needed.
At his best, you’d hope he could give OKC what his twin brother Marcus gives Boston- but even if he only gives you 70% of that, he could be a worthy bench addition.
Fit with OKC: 8/10
If healthy, he’s a big help. Because he’s more suited to the 3 than the 4 he would most likely usurp Patrick Patterson in the rotation, and could be an improvement there, although he may not solve the bench’s rebounding woes. OKC could try him as a backup 3 in limited minutes depending on matchup as well.
Let’s make one thing clear: Kanter is a legend in OKC. His bromance with Steven Adams, role as Russell Westbrook’s #1 fan, and trash talk towards Kevin Durant mean he always has a spot in OKC fan’s hearts.
But the Thunder also traded him for a reason, namely the fact that he plays less than zero defense (that’s why his jersey number in New York had to be #00). “Can’t Play Kanter” Billy Donovan was famously seen saying in the 2017 playoff series against the Rockets after Kanter got cooked for the umpteenth time. Nothing about that has changed. OKC has dreams of a playoff run, and Kanter will get run off the court by and Western Conference opponent.
Still, Kanter can rebound and score. Those could be valuable skills off the bench in certain matchups, especially if Kanter is paired with Nerlens Noel to provide the rim protection Kanter Kan’t.
Fit with OKC: 4/10
Kanter won’t play in the playoffs. But the Thunder have 2 open roster spots. If Kanter was the only addition they made, I’d be disappointed. But if they are able to bring in a useful wing who can play in the playoffs and also want to sign Kanter mainly to play out the regular season and talk trash from the bench, then maybe the second stache brother could find his way back to OKC.
Who do you think the Thunder should pursue in the buyout market?
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