Oklahoma City as a team are currently in a state of flux. The Russell Westbrook era ended and the second Thunder U era has not started yet as Oklahoma City play out this season with Danilo Gallinari and Chris Paul. It is likely that there will be deals struck over the coming year which clearly establish the Thunder’s plans for the next few years.
I wanted to try and understand how Sam Presti might act in this rebuilding stage therefore I have produced a trade book which identified short-term trades, long-term targets and bad contracts which the Thunder could absorb in the process of asset acquisition. Essentially, I wanted to produce a road-map of sorts which would outline short-term trades while also focusing on the long-term planning for the Thunder. This type of planning is a necessity for small market basketball teams as these teams generally do not attract All-Star level free agents, a key method of player procurement.
All of the Thunder’s team-building has to come from within the organisation whether this be through trade or internal growth.
In terms of identifying the Thunder’s plan for the next five years, it was tricky to do so. Sam Presti has been coy in revealing his plans for the roster and has stuck to the principles he established in the pre-season media sessions. Oklahoma City will maintain discipline in the franchise’s discipline, it will not be a full scale rebuild as a result of a hasty tanking effort. There have been whispers which have slipped out from the Thunder’s organisation stating that Oklahoma City will not hesitate to pull off trades which directly benefit the organisation. I do not doubt that this is the case for one minute, if Sam Presti gets a good return on a player he will take it.
I do think that the trade options are limited at the moment and there are no strong offers which will force Sam’s hand.
In the last few days, Steven Adams to Atlanta has been mentioned as a potential trade partner but I am not sure how believable this rumour is. Atlanta would have to give up young players like Cameron Reddish or Bruno Fernando to make this deal happen, the Hawks would also likely have to throw in a first round pick, something that Travis Schlenk will be reticent to do as Atlanta embraces the rebuild.
With the Trade Book which I have produced, I have balanced the short-term aims with the long-term plans. In the short-term, Oklahoma City are largely expected to make the play-offs and I could see Sam Presti swinging a deal for a talented wing if the right offer arises. Oklahoma City have a dearth of big wings who can shoot the three efficiently and the Thunder will not dither in the pursuit of such a player.
Kevin O’Connor has previously spoken about Oklahoma City being potential buyers at the deadline according to league sources. Oklahoma City have traditionally operated in silence in terms of roster changes with very few details slipping out to the media. The best example of this would be the Paul George trade which happened out of nowhere, no media members seemed to know that this deal was happening until the last stages. There was a common belief that the Lakers would eventually put together the right package and get George to LA. Presti came out of nowhere with a package that satisfied Kevin Pritchard’s criteria.
The reason why I believe that Kevin O’Connor’s statement holds weight is that it does reflect the Thunder’s current position. Presti holds a lot of assets which can be used to get players who make the Thunder better short-term and long-term.
A deal like Robert Covington presents the opportunity to acquire a versatile 3&D wing who is a multi-positional All-Defensive Team players. That is a skill-set which makes Oklahoma City better in the short-term while also getting an asset that could be dealt in the long-term. Covington could be flipped at the end of the season if the Thunder wanted a return on their investment, all contending teams want a high-level player who fits that mould especially with teams in the modern NBA.
A lot of teams such as the Lakers, Bucks and Clippers run a variation of the spread pick and roll which places offensive responsibilities on one player with the other four having simplified roles. There is value in a player who knows how to perform their role to a high level.
Chris Paul still got it, man. That was fun. Love the 3-guard lineup to finish—so many shot creators can make it hard to contain. It'll be fascinating to see what they do prior to the deadline. Some league executives I recently spoke with believe OKC is a stealth buyer. We'll see. pic.twitter.com/b5PbJTr9eb— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) January 1, 2020
Using the deep dive which I have conducted, I have inputted a few potential trades into the ESPN Trade Machine to see if these ideas work.
This is the potential trade package for Robert Covington that would make sense for both sides. Minnesota would get a forward who profiles as a 3&D player who has all of the tools to be an elite defender. Ferguson’s length, activity and acceleration means that he could be a top-level stopper. He is a reactive defender rather than being pro-active like Andre Roberson but it does seem to work for Ferguson, he is consistently an impactful player on defence. Moreover, Minnesota will get some cap relief which could work in their favour in the upcoming free agency period. Providing that the vision of a D’Lo/KAT future is real, it can be made tangible if Minnesota gets that cap space to build a good, young team. Dieng would obviously be used to match contracts but a deal involving a young guy like Culver and a pick in the future could be a decent haul for the Warriors. Minnesota could build around a two-man core and use that additional financial leverage to acquire solid rotation players who can provide depth to a thin team.
OKC Receive: Robert Covington
Minnesota Receive: Andre Roberson, Terrance Ferguson and 2020 Denver Pick
A deal with Philadelphia does feel like an inevitability because of the Sixers’ glaring needs. Ben Simmons is a really good play-making forward who is an adept defender at his position. but his impact falls of a cliff in the play-offs. We have seen teams scheme Simmons out of the series last year which was fine because Philly had Jimmy Butler who could close in late game situations. Butler being in Miami means that the Sixers have way less options, it is either persist with Simmons or switch to Raul Neto. Chris Paul provides experience, leadership and All-Time ability from the point guard spot. It is optimistic to include Tobias Harris in this scenario but I do not currently like his fit on Philadelphia. Harris is the type of player who can play off-ball but works best when he is being fed the ball as an almost primary option. It was one of the reasons why the Clippers’ offence worked so efficiently during the first half of last season as they had consistent, balanced scoring from like four players. He is much lower-usage on the Sixers and is relegated to a spot-up shooter in their lineups at times, an under-usage of his skill-set. It is more likely that Al Horford will be attached in the deal but Presti has shown an ability to produce magic at the table in the past.
OKC Receive: Tobias Harris + Zhaire Smith
Philly Receive: Chris Paul
With all of these details outlined above, I have attached the Trade Book down below for you guys to discuss. I would like to see what your thoughts are on the research and what direction you think the Thunder should go in.