As the dust settles after the trade deadline, it is clear that the Thunder have been more active than what many expected. In the run up to the February 9th, there was a belief that a move for Darius Bazley would be done if the right move could be found for him and the Thunder.
However, a trade involving Bazley did not seem particularly likely. The market around Darius has been quiet for the last year or so and his recent absences from the rotation meant that his stock did not have much buzz approaching the deadline. I had expected Darius to complete his season with the Thunder and find a new team in free agency in July.
The actual trades on deadline day were completely different to what we expected. Out of nowhere, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Mike Muscala was being traded to the Boston Celtics for Justin Jackson and two second round picks.
It was a shocking move, Mike has previously spoken about his love for Oklahoma City and he had become a favourite among the fanbase. There were no indications that Sam Presti was in the market looking to deal Muscala.
Moose has been an excellent leader on a young team and a mark of consistency for the Thunder. It is genuinely sad to see him go but it is nice to know that Mike has a legitimate chance to win a championship with the Celtics this season.
From a roster-building perspective, you can understand why Presti took the decision to move Mike on. Oklahoma City currently have two talented young big men in Jaylin Williams and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl who have played very well this season. Next season, the Thunder will add Chet Holmgren into the mix as well.
Finding minutes for Muscala on the team next season would have been difficult to say the least and moving him allows Mike to progress on with his career. He is 31 years old and still has plenty of good years of basketball left in his legs. A trade to a contending team will allow him to compete at the highest level of the sport.
Oklahoma City have waived Justin Jackson immediately and now have an open roster. It is possible that the Thunder fill this spot during the season, they have done so previously with Luguentz Dort, but I do not expect this to be the case. The Thunder have five draft picks in the 2023 NBA Draft and need roster spots to add young, cost-controlled talent.
It was then reported that a deal for Darius Bazley had been concluded. Darius had been dealt to Phoenix for Dario Saric and a second round pick.
For Bazley, it is an opportunity to get his career back on track and play on a team that has championship aspirations. He will be reunited with Chris Paul, the veteran who mentored Baze in his first season in Oklahoma City.
It is unfortunate to see Darius walk out of the door, he was Presti’s first pick in the post Westbrook era. Bazley’s energy was so exciting to watch in his rookie season and it did feel that the Thunder had stumbled upon a core piece of the future.
Sadly, his career stagnated and Daigneault could never find the role which maximised Darius’ defensive ability while minimising his lack of offensive creation. Oklahoma City tried Bazley in a few different roles over the last two seasons and none of them seem to fit well.
In Dario Saric, Oklahoma City will be getting a big who can knock down the long ball and bring others into play with his passing. Saric is unselfish and will kick the ball to teammates in good scoring positions.
Coach Monty Williams has toggled the ‘Homie’ Dario between the 4 and 5 during his time in Phoenix and Saric has been competent on the offensive end of the floor. Saric’s defense is rough, he is slow-footed and does struggled to guard big, physical centers.
Having Saric will allow Daigneault to play a passing center for all 48 minutes of the game, it gets the Thunder closer to their aim of everybody being able to pass the ball.
Oklahoma City did not land a marquee acquisition but I think they have done good business around the margins. Presti has trimmed the roster while adding a big who is very capable on the offensive end of the floor.