The trade deadline came and went this afternoon and while half the league did some kind of maneuvering, the Thunder did not. Which was to be expected, but at the same time, kind of unexpected. I realize that makes no sense.
We’ve come to kind of expect that out of nowhere move from Sam Presti, the one that makes us slap the table and say, “Brilliant!” He pulled one off back in December, when he picked up Eric Maynor and Matt Harpring’s contract for literally nothing. And with Harpring’s contract and Etan Thomas’s expiring deal, most thought OKC would be a player at the deadline because of so many teams looking to dump salary. The Thunder has expiring contracts and expiring contracts have become gold bullion in the NBA.
I’m sure Presti’s phone rang, but he was probably waiting for a home run deal that never came. OKC didn’t need another second level player. I don’t think people realize how full the roster already is. As it stands, the Thunder has two guys (not counting Harpring) that definitely don’t fit into the long term plans (Kevin Ollie and Etan Thomas). Then there’s Nick Collison and Nenad Krstic, two veteran mid-level guys that may or may not be with the team long term. Pretty much everyone else is either set in stone or was drafted with a mind to develop. So there’s not a lot of wiggle room to make a move right now without messing the current infrastructure of the team.
And while yes, OKC has the expiring contracts that could have looped a team into giving them a good deal, the Thunder’s not of the mind to lose their cap room flexibility, especially when right now, the current roster is playing as well as it has all season. The Thunder’s won seven straight, this young roster is completely coming together and each guy’s role is becoming clear. The only “tradable” guys were really end of the bench players like Kyle Weaver and D.J. White, and what could Presti truly get for that? Obviously there’s draft picks, which OKC already has a warehouse full of, and those are better to deal on draft night, when everyone has a clearer picture of the draft. Which according to John Hollinger, the Thunder may be waiting for.
And again, the mid-level guys like Krstic and Collison could have been dealt, but do you really want to mess with what’s working at this point? This team was built for long term, sustained success. And just because they’re a year ahead of schedule doesn’t mean you start chasing blockbuster trades. At least that’s what I’m guessing Presti thought. Yeah, maybe OKC could have tried for Robin Lopez or a blossoming big man, but again, that guy may already be on the roster and the Thunder doesn’t have to lose an asset with their own guys.
So where do we stand now? OKC has the same roster it did yesterday, is still 10 games over and still right in the middle of the Western Conference. Presti and Co. decided to hang on to their assets and let the contracts expire. This means the Thunder’s going to have a heap of cap room and flexibility this offseason, which SHOULD suggest Presti wants to play the free agent market. Now if the Thunder takes a pass there, then you might see some concern on my face.
We know the Thunder’s working as the smallest of small market franchises, but why the reluctance to spend? The Tyson Chandler trade was rescinded last year because of Chandler’s bum toe, but some feared that OKC really couldn’t handle Chandler’s large contract. I realize a lot of it has to do with keeping money to re-sign Durant, Green, Harden and Westbrook WITHOUT busting the luxury tax line, but still a MLE guy will fit into the budget, I think. But we’ll cross that bridge this summer, after a playoff run amirite?
So if you’re disappointed that the Thunder was quiet on trade day, don’t be. Sam Presti obviously knows what he’s doing and has assembled a roster whose top four are all under 23, but yet are sixth in the West. He’s not going to run out and offer max deals or make blockbuster trades. Everything is calculated, everything is planned. You have to remember, OKC has already signed all its big name free agents in a sense, and they’re named Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. We’re not operating like other franchises that deal year to year, trying to keep their heads above water. At least, that’s not the current plan, from my understanding.