Before Darnell Mayberry came along and stole my, ahem, thunder by writing an article saying the Thunder would not be making any major deals this season, I had already researched what kind of major deals the team might make. While Mayberry makes some pretty good points about not wanting to take time from the developing players to make a run at the playoffs prematurely, he also says: “From the start, the front office has been fixated on finding long-term playoff success, not fiddling with moves that bring five more wins.”
Who is to say fiddling for five more wins now wouldn’t be the best way to set up long-term playoff success? Think about it. The core of the team, and most of the players expected to fill out the rotation for a long time, are getting plenty of playing time during the regular season. As they have learned, usually through hard knocks, to win, the one thing that has not been simulated in playoff basketball. The run-up and, hopefully, first taste of a playoff atmosphere could pay huge dividends in the long run…especially if the tweaks made do not handcuff the team financially.
There are some deals that could be made that could help the team now and in the future. The questions then becomes, what does the team need and what can they give up?
As for what they should target, the first priority should be improved shooting. Right now, the team really struggles at opening up the floor. They have a couple of guys who can hit an open three-pointer (Jeff Green, James Harden) but when outside shooting is necessary, those guys can’t be counted on since the defense won’t sag to help in the paint.
Another way the team could improve is to acquire a dominant rebounder that would alleviate the need for the guards to crash the boards and hopefully stop turning the DeJuan Blair’s and Chuck Hayes’ of the world into superstars.
Now, as for assets the team could part with to improve these aspects of the team, a short list would include:
- Etan Thomas – who possesses an expiring contract (making him attractive to other franchises looking to alleviate long term payroll) and has fallen far out of the Thunder rotation. Although, as a veteran big man, he should still have value.
- D.J. White – Great potential, good offensive big man. Not cracking the Thunder rotation, though, means he’s expendable.
- Byron Mullens – Another guy with potential, his recent call up and game time could mean the team is showcasing him for potential trades as much as it could mean the team thinks he’s ready to contribute.
- Matt Harpring – His expiring contract, which is paid by an insurance company, will become tradable prior to the trade deadline.
- Two first round draft picks in the 2010 draft. Neither is necessarily valuable to the Thunder who are already loaded with developing talent.
- Money — The Thunder are one team that is fiscally in shape to take on some extra salary or even add some cold hard cash as sweetener in a deal.
After the jump, I outline some deals that could potentially make sense.
Idea #1: Washington SG Mike Miller $9.78MM (expiring) for Etan Thomas $7.9MM (expiring) and 2nd Round Pick.
What this deal accomplishes:
Oklahoma City needs a shooter, Mike Miller is one of the best. Sure, he’s overpaid and past his prime, but his contract expires at the end of the season, so his rental would be just to help down the stretch run. It could be a good rental, though.
Right now, defenders have practically zero hesitance to double K.D. or Westbrook on the drive. If they kick it out to the perimeter, only Green hits a decent percentage of threes (though not enough to scare defenders into not hedging) and Sefolosha gets the Doug Gottlieb treatment. With Miller setting his feet behind the line, that would either give the team’s two best players more one-on-one opportunities, or else allow one of the best shooters in basketball free looks at the basket.
As for why Washington makes the deal, it is to save $3.7MM (including luxury tax savings), then they can sell the second round pick for cash.
The real cost of the deal:
If Miller were to come on board, minutes are going to be cut for other guards. Harden is the most likely to see a reduction in playing time.
Idea # 2: Chicago Bulls receive Chris Bosh $15.7MM (expiring); Toronto Raptors receive Kirk Hinrich$9.5MM (3 years), Tyrus Thomas $4.7MM (restricted FA), Chicago’s 2010 first roundpick, OKC 2010 secondround pick; Oklahoma City receives Marco Belinelli $1.5MM (2 years)
What this accomplishes:
Chicago does this to secure Bosh’s Bird Rights and basically get him off the market. Long term, he pairs with Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, and Joakim Noah to be a force in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto does this because Bosh is walking and they get two starter caliber players who can play defense, and a couple of draft picks.
Oklahoma City does this to get a three point sniper, and all they really give up is their remaining cap space anda second round pick they likely wouldn’t use. Belinelli would likely play only in targeted spots, for instance when the Thunder face a zone defense. However, it is a club the team currently can’t pull out of the bag, so it does make them more dangerous.
The real cost:
If the Thunder were to participate in a deal that basically takes Chris Bosh off the market this Summer, that eliminates one of the few possibilities of the team making a big free agent splash. Of course, convincing Bosh to come to Oklahoma City is by no means an easy proposition with several big markets also offering him the same financial package. In the meantime, the other team trying to acquire his bird rights is the Lakers (offering Andrew Bynum as bait) and if they pull that off, they could have a core of Kobe, Pau, and Bosh for the next seven years…and they play in the same conference as the Thunder. Presti helping assure that Bosh stays in the Eastern Conference would be my preference.
Idea #3: Oklahoma City receives Troy Murphy $11MM (2 years) from Indiana Pacers for Nenad Krstic $5.1MM (player option), Matt Harpring $6.5MM (insurance covered expiring contract) and Phoenix’ 2010 1st rounder
What this accomplishes:
Indiana makes the deal because they are going nowhere and are hurting financially. If Krstic picks up his reasonable player option, he gives them similar play to Murphy, albeit less efficient and less consistent, but it also opens up more time to develop their young bigs Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough. They also save quite a bit for the rest of the season with Harpring’s contract.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City upgrades the offense and rebounding at center. Murphy averages six points more per game than Nenad and nearly doubles his rebounding output. While Murphy is never going to be an all defensive team player, he is certainly capable of playing defense just as well as Krstic. Murphy also shoots well from the outside to the tune of 40% from three point range. His contract would come off the books at the same time Durant’s extension would kick in, but he makes the team a stronger playoff contender over the next two seasons.
The real cost:
Murphy is expensive and having his contract on the books basically takes the Thunder out of the free agent market this Summer. The question then becomes, could they really get anyone better than Murphy?
Also, Murphy would likely command more minutes than Krstic, so Serge Ibaka and/or Nick Collison would see the floor less.
Idea #4 Oklahoma City receives Michael Redd $17MM (2 years) from Milwaukee for Etan Thomas, Matt Harpring, and Phoenix’ 2010 1st Round pick.
Oops. After I wrote this, Redd blew out his knee (again).
Idea #5 Jason Kapono from Philadelphia $6.2MM (expiring) for Matt Harpring’s contract
What this accomplishes:
Salary dump by Philly, shooter for hire to the Thunder. It’s basically the same scenario as the Belinelli deal except bringing in a better shooter and not getting in the middle of the Bosh drama.
The real cost:
None for the fans. The ownership group gives up a player they don’t have to pay for a player they do.
So what do you think? Personally, I like the Murphy deal the most because it supplies a consistent guy who can play center, regularly lead the team in rebounds, and provide a three point threat. Failing that, I’d like to see Chris Bosh NOT go to the Lakers.