For much of the past week, discussion on this website has been centered around the theoretical acquisition of Oklahoma City’s first professional superstar, Chris Paul. And while the debate has raged between those who agree with me and think, “If you can a player as good as CP3, you do it,” and those people who are wrong, there is nothing close to unanimity on the topic.
So, today, I will try to change the subject and delve into another trading opportunity the Thunder could theoretically, but probably not, have. The idea came to me when I read this article (insider access required) by Chad Ford. For those without ESPN Insider, the gist of the article circled around the pipe dream that Miami might possibly woo both LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join a re-signed Dwyane Wade in the Summer of 2010.
The likelihood such a haul is irrelevant to this discussion, as what really matters is the Heat’s managment’s willingness to do what it takes for a chance to make the biggest free agent splash in NBA history. Because it would take a lot. A LOT. And that’s just for the opportunity to possibly coax those two into turning down a lot of other attractive opportunities.
Some of you may be wondering, “what does this have to do with the Thunder?” That’s a good question. Ford layed out three scenarios in which Miami could make a run at next Summer’s three premiere free agents. Numbers one and three were basically non-starters with the former involving sign and trades (which would be practically impossible for a Heat team that would basically have an empty roster) and the latter asking the three superstars to accept less so they could all play together (that only happens when players are trying to get a ring at the end of their careers).
That leaves the second scenario, for which Oklahoma City could get very involved. See what and how after the jump.
In the second scenario, the one where the Heat can most control the variables, Miami can clear even more cap space that puts themselves into financial position where they can offer all three players maximum value contracts. At the moment, they possess only four contracts that eat into next season’s salary space. They are:
- Michael Beasley owed $5.0MM next season
- James Jones owed $4.64MM
- Daequan Cook owed $2.2MM
- Mario Chalmers owed $897K
With those four, the Heat have approximately $12.7MM tied up, and the assumption is that the salary cap will be around $52MM. While $40MM under the cap is a typically a lot, it is truly only enough to sign two max contracts. They need to shed another another five, or more, from their 2010 liability in order to have legitimate hope.
To do that, they have to trade some of the guys on that above list for expiring contracts or else trade with a team that can accept more in salary than what they send to Miami.
Enter the Thunder.
Sam Presti sat on his hands this Summer despite having a fantastical amount of salary cap space and ended up signing only veterans who took minimum contracts. They still have about $8MM they could use for this season if he wanted. So, if Miami should be making calls to the 405 area code if they hope to get in position.
In my mind, the most intriguing player that the Heat could part with would be Michael Beasley, the number two overall pick in last year’s draft. I think we are all aware of why Miami might be willing to trade him. He was not the instant impact player they expected when they drafted him, and he spent part of this past Summer in drug rehabilitation (supposedly for marijuana). There were also questions before the drug problems about Beasley’s attitude.
Of course, from a talent standpoint, there are few questions. After he dominated college basketball as a freshman in much the same way current Thunder star Kevin Durant did, many expected great things from him as a pro. And to put things in perspective, his rookie year was not bad. He averaged 13.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in 24 minutes per game, which is typically enough to get a first year player mentioned as a Rookie of the Year candidate. However, due to the high expectations of immediate success, those numbers were largely yawned toward.
So, what it means is the guy probably needs more time to develop, a process the Heat won’t be interested in fostering should they stock their team full of all-stars. The Thunder, though, could bring him along at a fairer pace and most importantly, acquire him for a fair price.
What could that price be? Well, I doubt Miami, no matter how desperate would trade him strictly for the cap space. The Thunder could offer draft picks (they own Phoenix and their own in the 2010 draft, though they aren’t projected to have roster space for both of them) and possibly D.J. White or Byron Mullens both of whom earn about 1/5th of Beasley’s salary next season. For a team like Miami that will, best case scenario, still need cheap labor to surround their trio of superstars, those are attractive assets.
Would that be too much to give up for a possible head case with certain talent? Perhaps it would. Presti’s blue print for building the team has put a lot of emphasis on chemistry. On the other hand, it has never seemed to be Beasley’s teammates who have complained about him on the floor or off. So, it would be unlikely that his presence would upset the players. Also, Beasley has a good relationship with team star and captain Kevin Durant who actually played on the same youth league team when the two were growing up together in the Washington D.C. area.
The other question is whether the fans would accept him. This is a conservative part of the country that one would expect to turn their noses up toward someone with a questionable past. However, and this is a big however, that conservatism also brings about an air of Christian charity. Oklahomans have welcomed people seeking second chances with open arms (i.e. Eddie Sutton, JamesOn Curry, too many Sooner football players to count)…especially if those people can help their teams win.
The final point before opening this up to comments is this: Do the Thunder make such a trade knowing that they might be assisting another team to becoming an extended dynasty–especially when we are hoping our team builds such a dynasty during the same stretch? My thought is, why not? It is still a long shot for Miami to get all three, even if they shed the requisite salaries. Even if they do, they will be extremely thin when it comes to depth. Also, with Miami in the Eastern Conference, the Thunder wouldn’t have to worry about them until the Finals…and with a core of Durant, Beasley, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden that might be a yearly battle.