The trade deadline comes and goes tomorrow. Yeah, that’s right. And by and large, Oklahoma City hasn’t been involved in any rumors or trade whisperings. But that doesn’t mean nothing will happen. The Thunder has a bunch of great assets and I’m sure Sam Presti’s phone will ring at least a few times tomorrow morning. So just like last year, let’s rank the assets.
Not touchable, in an Elliot Ness kind of way
1. Kevin Durant. Obviously KD is on the top of the list and honestly, behind LeBron, he may be the most valuable asset in the league. (His upcoming contract extension is going to be a big part of this, but I’m almost convinced he gets his max offer and signs the next morning. Maybe I think that way because I’d dunk my head in lava if that didn’t happen.) But I’m about to make a bold statement: I get asked a lot if I would trade Durant for anyone straight up. My simple answer: Nope.
I know, I know… LeBron. But I wouldn’t. Maybe that would make me a bad GM, but I want Kevin Durant on my team over LeBron James. Mainly because my team is the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant just works here. He fits the Oklahoma mindset, he fits with his teammates and he just worksas the cornerstone for this franchise. I get tired of people trying to compare things. LeBron or Kobe? Durant or LeBron? Kevin Ollie or Anthony Johnson? Players are different and they play differently. LeBron is the best basketball player on the planet, no doubt. I just don’t see how that’s debatable. But Durant fits within what OKC does and is and he’s not too shabby a basketball player either.
2. Russell Westbrook. His value has skyrocketed this year. In fact, he’s probably one of the five most valued point guards in the league. Yes, you read that right. I’d say 26 other teams would come close to selling the farm to grab Westbrook from Oklahoma City. The fact that he’s just 21, the fact that he’s rapidly improved and the fact that a ceiling hasn’t been defined for him makes him nearly as valuable as Kevin Durant. I said nearly.
3. James Harden. Some might say Harden has been a little disappointing in his rookie campaign. But the reality is, he’s a huge reason OKC has made such a strong push. His 3-point shooting, his ability to create shots for both himself and others, his passing ability and his overall demeanor and attitude have made him an absolute perfect fit. On a different roster where he’s the primary scoring option, Harden might be averaging closer to 15 points a game and five assists. And that’s the thing: He’s going to develop within OKC’s system and in three years, he could be the ideal second scorer and shooter to take some of the weight off Durant’s shoulders.
4. Jeff Green. Yep, I’m putting Uncle Jeff in the “Untouchable” category. He’s always the talk of trade scenarios and probably for the rest of his career will be. He’s a guy that’s probably playing out of position, isn’t a star, doesn’t do one thing extraordinarily well and can be a little inconsistent. But he’s not going anywhere. So long as Kevin Durant is on the roster, that is.
And this isn’t all about KD either. Green has a ton of value to this team. You can crunch numbers and look at plus/minus and do other things, but the reality is, Green plays almost 40 minutes a night on a team that’s 10 games over. He’s improving and has come out of a funk the last couple weeks. He’s always hitting big shots, making winning plays or doing a little thing to help you have more points at the end of the game. Green will get mentioned constantly in trade speculation because he’s not “ideal”. He doesn’t fit the mold of the position he plays and he’s often inconsistent. But at this point, his value can’t exactly be measured by his on-court production. He’s buddies with KD and it’s not like Uncle Jeff is a bad basketball player.
We’d really rather not
5. Thabo Sefolosha. Thabo was just locked up with a multi-year extension, so it’s highly unlikely he’d be mentioned for that reason alone. But the Thunder organization values him almost as much as the four youngsters. Thabo has completely changed the mentality of this team defensively and his on-court value is sky-high. Why do you think OKC is one of the best defensive teams in the league? Answer: Because it has some of the best defenders.
6. Serge Ibaka. Honestly, I almost put Ibaka in the Untouchable category. Why? Because even through 51 games, he’s a total mystery. I have no idea what his offensive ceiling could be. I really have no idea what his defensive ceiling could be. He’s an absolute freak of nature, has a body chiseled of stone and has a great attitude and strong work ethic. Oh, and he’s just 20 years old.
Did you know, in Ibaka’s last six games, he’s averaging two blocks a game? That’s what Dwight Howard averages. Now granted, the question is can Ibaka sustain that, but in just 20 minutes a night, Ibaka is blocking shots at a high rate. Everyone talks about the mythical “big man” OKC needs to hunt down that can rebound and block shots. I have a feeling he’s already on the roster. Ibaka can impact games like Chris Andersen on the defense end, but isn’t a liability offensively. Ibaka is easily OKC’s most improved player since the season started. Compared to what he was back in October, he’s made an incredible leap. Imagine what Ibaka could be in two years. In one year. By the end of the season. I think the Thunder could be just fine in the big man department. So don’t sweat that Marcus Camby trade. We may have a newer and improved version already.
7. Eric Maynor. Since Eric Maynor was acquired from Utah Oklahoma City is 18-7. M-V-P? M-V-P?
8. Matt Harpring’s expiring contract. There’s really one reason Harpring’s contract is more valuable than Etan Thomas’, even though it’s for less money: Because Harpring isn’t playing. His contract is being basically entirely paid by insurance since Harpring is essentially retired due to injury. So a team could take his expiring deal and really get out of it without having to pay a dime for him. For a franchise looking to dump money, Harpring is the perfect trade piece.
9. Etan Thomas’ expiring contract. Thomas’ deal has him worth almost $8 million right now. He’s a valuable piece. But with the salary cap likely lowering, I’m not sure Presti wants to move this valuable expiring deal for something long term. The NBA is in a very unstable financial state and with OKC being the smallest market team, you’ve got to be prudent with your money. But if the right deal presents itself, Thomas would absolutely make a perfect piece for a team looking to salary dump.
10. 2010 first round pick. This is getting less and less valuable with each passing day. And that’s awesome.
11. Phoenix’s 2010 unprotected first round pick. This is getting more and more valuable with each passing day. And that’s almost even MORE awesome.
12. Nick Collison. He maybe should be a little higher, but in terms of something a team would want, Collison has to be down the line a bit. He still has another year left on his deal and he makes more than the MLE. A contender needing inside help would obviously love him (hello Toronto, Atlanta and San Antonio, among others), but Collison makes a little too much for what he’s worth. If he were expiring, he’d probably be five or six.
13. Nenad Krstic. Almost the same story with Collison. He makes less and is expiring in 2011. The only thing with Krstic is that he’s been a little less productive and he’s not exactly filling a “big man” need for teams. He’s a better defender than people realize but he doesn’t really protect the rim, isn’t a great rebounder and is streaky with his jumper and scoring. With the emergence of Ibaka and the appearance that Byron Mullens has some ability, I’d say Krstic is one of the most expendable players though.
14. Byron Mullens. He was drafted as a project and if he were to go anywhere, he’d remain that. But there’s something to be said for a 7-2 guy that can shoot from 20 feet, is athletic and is SEVEN FOOT TWO. I wouldn’t write him off yet.
15. D.J. White. White has had a truly tortured early career. The benign growth in his jaw caused him to miss nearly his entire rookie year. And now he hurts himself practicing this year and will miss extended time. He has ability. And like I’ve said before, he has solid rotation big man written all over him. He’s like a Joe Smith, Antonio McDyess, P.J. Brown type of guy in that he can consistently hit a jumpshot, can rebound a little but isn’t quite good enough to play 35 minutes in the paint.
16. Kyle Weaver. Much like White, just when it looked like Weaver was going to have a chance to contribute, he busts his shoulder. Shame too, because now that OKC has Maynor, there is just no place for Weaver. He may not fit long term with the Thunder, but someone would want a 6-6, long-armed shooting guard that can handle the ball, defend and pass, right?
17. Kevin Ollie. His contract is expiring and he could provide some steady play in spurts for a contender or even a rebuilding team.
18. Grant Long and Brian Davis. Long and Davis for Brian Scalabrine? Who says no? I kid, I kid.
Have a draft pick while we’re at it
19. Minnesota’s 2010 second round pick. This actually kind of a nice pick to have. It’ll likely be in the top 35 and there are good players to be had in that region. DeJuan Blair anyone?
21. 2010 second round pick.
22. Minnesota’s conditional 2010 second round pick. This is the lower of the two Minny picks we got in the Chucky Atkins deal. Yes, you read that right. We got TWO picks out of Chucky Atkins and Damien Wilkins.
22. Robert Vaden’s rights. I actually think Darth Vaden is going to be an NBA player. He didn’t show it in Summer League, but he can flat out shoot it. Over in Europe, he’s over 50 percent from outside. Obviously, I don’t know what kind of defender he is or even whether or not the Thunder needs JUST a 3-point shooter at this point, but once Vaden gets more consistent, he’s going to be a role player on some team.
23. DeVon Hardin’s rights. Hardin probably won’t ever make a roster, but he’s a nice piece to bounce around in your D-League system and then toss in to even out a trade. The guy has serious size and athleticism. He just hasn’t harnessed much skill out of it. If he could develop a little post game, he really could make a decent end-of-the-bench player.
24. Cash considerations. Does anyone really know what this means? And how much is it? A couple hundred bucks? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? We toss this term out there constantly but I don’t even know what it means.
If you were to ask me, I don’t think OKC makes any kind of major deal. I could see a shuffling of draft picks, but I just can’t see the Thunder jumping into the big name trade talks. Right now, this young roster is developing. Something is working. Compared to three months ago, this team has improved a ton. So why mess with that right now? If the right deal presents itself, I’m sure Sam Presti and Co. will make it happen. But right now, I’m content with the current roster and excited to see where it goes from here the rest of this season.