The month leading up to the NBA trade deadline always promises speculation, excitement, and intrigue culminating on trade deadline day, with the cut off time in mid-afternoon. NBA fans will have twitter notifications on for ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic’s Shams Charina, anxiously awaiting that chime from their phone, hoping their team has struck a deal.
Last season’s trade deadline featured lots of movement, including the Cleveland Cavaliers trading nearly half their roster, Blake Griffin getting sent to Detroit, and numerous other deals. Speculation this year seems to be less optimistic for a crazy trade season. Fourteen teams in the Western Conference are still realistically in the running to make the playoffs while the top eleven teams in the Eastern Conference still have a shot at the post-season. With so many teams in playoff contention, those franchises will most likely not be trading away rotation players that would hinder their chances.
Thus, we have a market full of buyers with few sellers to choose from. In the simple economic idea of supply-and-demand, a large demand and little supply leads to expensive transactions. Teams looking to sell off players for assets (Atlanta, Phoenix, New York, for example) will be able to take the highest bidder rather than settle for something less.
With all that being said, what can we expect from the Oklahoma City Thunder? Who will they try to acquire? What are they willing to trade away? Can they find a reliable shooter? Well, let’s take a look:
What Can the Thunder Trade Away?
Image via OKCThunder.com
Let’s break it down into tiers.
Tier 1: “He’s an all-star, we’re not trading him.”
Russell Westbrook ($35M, 5 years)
Paul George ($30M, 4 years)
Steven Adams ($22M, 4 years)
Tier 2: “We love this guy, so this offer better blow my socks off.”
Jerami Grant ($8.6M, 3 years)
Terrance Ferguson ($2.1M, 3 years)
Hamidou Diallo ($813K, 3 years)
Tier 3: “He’s a solid player, but we’re willing to explore ideas.”
Andre Roberson ($10M, 2 years)
Dennis Schroder ($15.5M, 3 years)
Tier 4: “You like him? Then let’s make a deal.”
Alex Abrines ($5.5M, 1 year)
Nerlens Noel ($1.7M, 2 years)
Tier 5: “You want him? He’s yours!”
Raymond Felton ($2.4M, 1 year)
Patrick Patterson ($5.4M, 2 years)
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot ($1.4M, 1 year)
Abdel Nader ($1.4M, 1 year)
Besides the three All-Star candidates on the team, the players with (probably) the most trade value on the Thunder roster are Terrance Ferguson and Hamidou Diallo. Both players are 20 years old, hyper-athletic, long wing players with massive upside. Factor in that both players are under contract for three more years and will be restricted free agents (meaning their current team can match any offer), and you have a commodity that much of the league desires. For these reasons, it’s understandable why the Thunder desperately want to keep both wings and would only move them for a major impact player.
Players like Alex Abrines, Patrick Patterson, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot are fan favorites to include in hypothetical trades. The problem with that is the NBA doesn’t subscribe to the belief that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Luwawu-Cabarrot doesn’t get playing time for the Thunder. Patterson has underperformed while shooting 6% below his career average from the three-point line. Alex Abrines has been away from the team for three weeks and has also struggled from three, shooting 5% below his career average. Trading a struggling player - or one that doesn’t even play - for a helpful rotational player isn’t realistic. Other factors can play a role - like contract years, salary cap, etc. - but those are very specific situations.
Who might the Thunder trade for?
If you log on to social media platforms or any blogs you’ll find numerous players that fans say “we should go get that guy!” These things have to be looked at objectively, though. The Washington Wizards aren’t going to trade Bradley Beal for an injured Andre Roberson, a struggling Patrick Patterson, and some old KD jerseys. Trades have to make sense for both teams.
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s name has popped up in multiple “rumors” for players recently. These rumors always have to be taken with a grain of salt - Who is leaking the info? Where did they get it from? Why did the information go public? Back in December Sam Amico reported that OKC had inquired about Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from the Los Angeles Lakers and Terrence Ross of the Orlando Magic. On January 11th Keith Smith reported that the Thunder are searching for a backup big man while the Ringer mentioned OKC as a team that is pursuing the Atlanta Hawk’s wing man Taurean Prince. From these rumors, it seems like Sam Presti and the Thunder are scouring the market, possibly targeting a shooter to help the teams poor numbers from the 3-point line.
Let’s break down the possible trade targets into two categories: Big men and Wings.
Image via NBC Sports
Power Forward, Washington Wizards
($2.4M, 1 year)
Green is currently playing for the lackluster Wizards, who have lost John Wall for the season and seen Dwight Howard only play nine games in the first half of the year. Green (presumably) signed a 1-year veteran’s minimum deal with Washington expecting to make the playoffs. Now, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Pair that with the crowded front court of Green, Markieff Morris, Sam Dekker, Otto Porter, and Trevor Ariza, and it’s easy to see why Green may be the odd man out.
Possible deal: Raymond Felton and a 2020 2nd round pick for Jeff Green.
Power Forward, Washington Wizards
($8.6M, 1 year)
This is basically the same story as Jeff Green: Morris has an expiring contract and is playing on a team that will really struggle to even make the playoffs. With a crowded front court and returning front injury, it’s feasible to see Washington parting with the Morris twin.
Possible deal: Raymond Felton, Alex Abrines, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot for Markieff Morris.
Power Forward, Phoenix Suns
($4.6M, 1 year)
Dragan Bender has fallen out of favor in Phoenix, playing in only 12 games this season while other young players jump him in the rotation. Considering his age (21), size (7-1), and draft status (4th pick in the 2016 draft), Bender looks like the ideal Sam Presti trade target (see: Dion Waiters, Enes Kanter, etc).
Possible deal: Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson for Dragan Bender and Jawun Evans.
Power Forward/Center, Cleveland Cavaliers
($25M, 4 years)
If you’re going to swing, might as well go for the fences. Insiders around the NBA believe Kevin Love will get traded out of Cleveland this year. Love has a massive new contract (4-years, $120M), but doesn’t fit the Cavalier’s youth movement and timeline. Love’s elite perimeter shooting and defensive rebounding would shore up two of the Thunder’s biggest weaknesses, although his below-average defense would hurt the identity of the team.
Possible deal: Andre Roberson, Patrick Patterson, Alex Abrines, Hamidou Diallo, and a 2020 2nd round pick for Kevin Love and Cedi Osman.
Center, Atlanta Hawks
($6.3M, 1 year)
In the final year of his contract and other, more youth-friendly players, on the rise, the Atlanta Hawks may try to make a deal for veteran big man Dewayne Dedmon at the trade deadline. With Nerlens Noel likely to have multiple suitors this summer - and Oklahoma City without cap space or bird rights to offer Noel a large payday - a player like Dedmon could make sense for the future. Add in his three-point shooting, something the Thunder have never had at the Center position, and he becomes an intriguing candidate.
Possible deal: Patrick Patterson and Abdel Nader for Dewayne Dedmon.
Image via King James Gospel
Small Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers
($2.7M, 2 years)
Reports have suggested that the Cavaliers are open for business. One of the players on the block: Cedi Osman. The 6-8 wing hasn't shot great from three this season (30% on nearly five attempts per game), but is it fair to evaluate any players on this Cavalier’s team? His size, length, shooting potential, and youth could all be appealing factors for the Thunder.
Possible deal: Alex Abrines, Abdel Nader, and a 2020 2nd round pick for Cedi Osman and Rodney Hood.
Small Forward, Atlanta Hawks
($2.5M, 2 years)
Kevin O’Conner (aka: Shea Serrano’s arch-nemesis) recently mentioned on a podcast that Atlanta has been fielding calls for Taurean Prince, and that Philly - along with OKC - were some of those conversations. Prince is an ideal wing: 6-foot-8, can defend, and is a career 37% three-point shooter. Add that he is 24 years-old and still on his rookie scale deal, and he becomes a hell of a trade candidate.
Possible deal: Hamidou Diallo, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and OKC lowering the protection on the 2022 first round pick they sent to Atlanta in the Dennis Schroder trade from top-14 to top-10 for Taurean Prince.
Shooting Guard, Miami Heat
($6.3M, 1 year)
Wayne Ellington is a shooter in every sense of the word. He is a come-off-a-screen-and-fire type of player who can get hot from the outside. He shoots 38% behind the arc for his career, on a strong number of attempts (4 3PA for his career, 6+ each of his past three seasons). He is currently racking up DNP-CDs with Miami and has only played in about half the games this season.
Possible deal: Alex Abrines and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot for Wayne Ellington.
Shooting Guard/Small Forward, Orlando Magic
($10.5M, 1 year)
Terrence Ross’ career year in Orlando has teams circling him as a potential trade target. Ross is averaging a career high in points (13.6) and rebounds (3.1) while shooting 39% from three on six attempts per game. His age (28 years old), length, and athleticism make him an intriguing candidate. However, Sam Amico has reported that Orlando would like to make the playoffs and they believe Ross helps them get there. If Orlando continues to slip, the front office may be more inclined to trade his expiring contract for young players and assets.
Possible deal: Andre Roberson and Hamidou Diallo for Terrence Ross.
Shooting Guard, Sacramento Kings
($11M, 1 year)
It is well documented that Presti coveted Iman Shumpert in the past. Years ago Chris Broussard reported that the Thunder were working on a deal to get Shumpert from the New York Knicks. He fits the mold of a Presti-type target: positional versatility, defensive minded, and not a great shooter. This year, however, Shumpert is shooting 39% from three on five attempts per game with the Sacramento. The Kings appear to be in the midst of a youth movement behind De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and others, making Shumpert non-compatible with their timeline.
Possible deal: Alex Abrines, Patrick Patterson, and a 2020 2nd round pick for Iman Shumpert.
What can we expect?
Image via WKYC
NBA General Managers are constantly in contact with each other. They gauge what players may be available for trade, what players on their team opposing general managers like, who is slipping in the standings, who is willing to take a risk, etc. Talks of a trade form and fall apart constantly. Through some of the reports and rumors, it seems like Sam Presti and the Thunder are looking around the Association and keeping their options open.
Will they make a trade? Maybe, if the right deal comes up. However, don’t be surprised if February 7th passes and the Thunder have not make a move. With an extra roster spot still open, it is fair to assume they will also be scouring the buy-out market.
Trade season is upon us. Let the speculation begin!