With the trade deadline this Thursday and the Thunder currently sitting at 30-20 with a 7.5 lead on the 9th seed, many people will have their eyes on them to see what they’ll do. Should the Thunder stick to their original plan and sell off their tradeable pieces in order to get future assets that will benefit them in the long term or should they just keep this core and ride this season out?
With the four day break and the next game not coming until Wednesday, the WLTC staff decided to give their thoughts on what the Thunder should do this Thursday.
J.D. Tailor: I genuinely think that the Thunder should not sell off any of their pieces at this moment, OKC will get way more better value in the off-season when the league has shaken out a little more. There are plenty of teams who will realise their position in regards to winning a title and need more talent. Milwaukee could drop into this bracket if they are willing to deal Eric Bledsoe and get a top-tier point guard in the form of Chris Paul. Philly is the obvious option with Simmons’ inability to shoot from deep could really hamper Brett Brown’s scheming in play-off situations. There has been a lot of data which indicates that Simmons’ offensive output flat-lines in the fourth quarter and it becomes hard for Philly to generate offence. Paul for like Horford + Zhaire + a future first round pick makes a lot of sense.
Gallinari is unlikely to be dealt now unless OKC get a really solid asset. If the Thunder can get like a young player + a future pick, that deal would make a lot of sense. I am not exaggerating when I say that Danilo Gallinari has been been producing at a fringe All-Star level. He is a versatile, highly efficient forward who can do a bit of everything. Miami could feasibly make a nice offer of Winslow and Meyers Leonard but there will be no future assets involved (Miami do not have picks to deal until later in the decade). Winslow is a strong return, he is on a cheap contract for an extended period of time but I have my doubts about his fit on OKC. He is best with the ball in hands, he would be limited if Billy ran a lot of the offence through Shai and Dennis. I could probably see Presti doing a sign and trade type deal where he gets Gallinari to a contending team in return for a few expiring deals.
Adams and Schroder are unlikely to be dealt before the trade deadline despite there being a lot of rumours surrounding both players. Atlanta have been linked with Adams heavily since the Drummond talks fell through. It does not make much sense in my opinion for the Hawks to pick up Adams now as he will likely make actual winning contributions in games where their aim is to lose as much possible in order to get a top draft pick. Travis Schlenk, a former Warriors front office exec, could feasibly use Adams as the Andrew Bogut in his Warriors-lite offence. Steve has the play-making chops, defence and efficient scoring to fill this role. I could see the Thunder exploring a deal in the off-season but I do not think that Presti will be desperate to trade Adams. Steve fits the contending timeline post-rebuild and would be a valuable player as a leader.
I would like to see Oklahoma City as a buyer in the market. Oklahoma City could put together a really solid offer for Robert Covington i.e. Roberson, Ferguson + Denver First Round Pick. Covington would provide a veteran forward who is a multi-positional defender and a comfortable shooter from deep. He does not have further room to grow but his skill-set is valuable. Every team needs a guy who can be plugged into the offence and be a plus-minus machine. The only limitation to this trade scenario is that Ferguson’s personal issues could make dealing him difficult.
Clemente Almanza: I agree with a ton of what J.D. said but I’m not big on them being buyers. I think the Thunder should still open up shop despite all the recent success but they should only deal if it makes sense for them. With how OKC has been playing, Sam Presti has all the leverage in the world, other teams know that the Thunder don’t have to trade over the of fear of losing their guys for nothing in the offseason. All the big trade pieces either have multiple years left in their contracts or are reportedly interested in working out sign and trades in the offseason to help OKC out.
The only big players I could realistically see getting moved this week are Gallinari and Schroder. Chris Paul’s and Adams’ salaries are way too huge to be moved in-season, those type of salaries are better off traded in the offseason when teams don’t have to rush their offers to beat a deadline.
But like mentioned earlier, Schroder is having a career season and has another year left on his deal. OKC knows they don’t have to rush to trade him but I also hope they realize that Schroder’s value is as high as it’s ever going to be right now so they should consider striking while the iron’s hot. Gallinari is an UFA this summer but there have already been reports of him working with OKC in a sign and trade this summer if the team doesn’t like any of the offers they receive.
There’s also other minor moves OKC could make like salary dumping Andre Roberson or trading Nerlens Noel, who will become an UFA this summer.
Roberson has an expiring contract with a $10.7M salary this season. Roberson hasn’t played in over two years and is currently away from the team in order to continue his rehab. Different teams will have different motivations to trade for Roberson so there could be a market for him. Some teams might want to trade for him in order to get his expiring deal on their books and free up that cap space in the summer. Other teams could take a low risk high reward approach and trade for Roberson hoping his potential return could add some good perimeter defense and some depth for the playoffs.
Trading Noel is a little more tricky since he has a no trade clause on his deal so any potential deal would need to be approved by him. But Noel is having his best season in years and would be a super cheap good backup big/ borderline starter on any playoff team.
The Thunder could also try other moves in order to get under the luxury tax as they sit around $1.2M above the tax. The Thunder could trade away someone like Deonte Burton, who has a $1.4M salary this season and has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff recently, in order to get underneath the tax. The Thunder could then use the open money in order to give Luguentz Dort a full time NBA contract after using up the full 45 days on his two way deal.
But I don’t think the Thunder are as concerned about their luxury tax situation as some people make them out to be, they were going to pay the tax this season anyway before they blew up their team this past summer and will have a cheaper team payroll for the foreseeable future when their roster gets filled up with players on rookie contracts as they start to trade off their veterans in the summer.
What do you guys think? Should the Thunder stick to their plan and be sellers or should they add to this playoff team and be buyers?