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End of an era: Thunder trade Steven Adams to Pelicans

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Oklahoma City Thunder v Houston Rockets - Game Five Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Steven Adams is gone.

In a complex, multi-team trade that occurred late last night, Steven Adams has been traded to the Pelicans in exchange for George Hill, Darius Miller, a 2023 protected first-round pick from Denver, and two second-round picks in 2023 from Charlotte and 2024 from Washington.

The Thunder also traded James Johnson to the Dallas Mavericks, and the Thunder will get back Trevor Ariza, Justin Jackson, and another draft pick.

From a pure basketball perspective, this is an excellent deal for the Thunder and Sam Presti. They were able to trade Adams’ expiring $27.5 million salary without sacrificing an asset or taking back any big contracts to match salaries like Eric Bledsoe. The Thunder could also get about three draft picks to add to their collection and two players who should be easy to flip again.

Since this trade is still not official and the finer details are still being ironed out, there is always the chance that the Pelicans give up more players to make the salaries match. Someone like SGA’s cousin Nickeil Alexander-Walker or Nicolo Melli could become available, which would make this trade even sweeter for Oklahoma City.

Letting SGA play with his cousin can be a bone thrown to him by Presti with all this high turnover.

Miller is a great sniper from three, shooting 36.5% from beyond the arc last season on 5.3 attempts. His $7 million salaries should add intrigue to potential teams interested in his services.

Hill was great with Milwaukee last season, having a great season off the bench averaging 9.4 PPG and 3.1 APG while shooting a career-high 46% from three on three attempts. Hill will be making $9.6 million this season. An excellent value contract to have for the services he provides both on and in the locker room.

The Mavericks gave up quite a bit in terms of quantity for James Johnson.

Ariza will most likely get traded once again before the dust settles. Last season, Ariza averaged eight points a game on 37.2% from three on 3.9 attempts. Ariza’s $12.8 million salary this season is a bit too rich for his production but not too much to the point where no teams will be interested in adding him to their roster.

Jackson is an adequate, young spacing forward off the bench. He is entering the last year of his rookie contract, and the Thunder are in no position to hand out extensions currently. Jackson will most likely be dealt before the season ends. Any team could use a player like him.

Now, from a sentimental standpoint, this trade sucks. The Thunder fanbase has seen Adams grow both on and off the court over his seven years here in OKC. Adams has always been a fan favorite for the franchise with his colorful personality and calm demeanor with the team. When you think of Thunder culture, a few guys come to mind; Adams is one of them.

Out of all the departures this past week, this one stings the most. While his on-court production was sometimes frustrating as Adams’ passive personality would hurt him, nobody can take away what the Big Kiwi meant for this team and this city.

If the Thunder were to decide to retire No. 12 in the future, I don’t think the team will be met with much opposition from the fans.

With Adams’ departure, the longest-tenured player on the Thunder roster is Hamidou Diallo, who is about to enter his third season.

We have been preparing for this week for well over a year now, but it is truly astonishing to see it unfold as Presti tears down this roster and fully embraces the rebuild.

Presti will not settle for half-measure attempts at a rebuild. He could have efficiently ran it back with this squad for a second season. But that does not align with Sam’s vision of building a long term contender in Oklahoma City.

You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.