By trading Ryan Gomes on Monday, the Thunder accomplished three simple, but important things:
1) They cleared his $884,293 salary off the books entirely. Gomes’ contract was non-guaranteed, so the Thunder could’ve just waived him, but Presti trading him was a shrewd bit of cap manipulation. Because if you waive him, you’d have a cap hold on it. You wouldn’t owe Ryan Gomes any more money and that roster spot would be freed, but in terms of the salary sheet, Gomes’ $884,293 would still exist on it.
2) The Thunder are now about $2.3 million under the luxury tax threshold, something they’re trying to avoid breaking over as if it’ll trigger a state-wide earthquake that swallows the entire metro area.
3) They have two available roster spots.
It didn’t take much analysis to understand that moving Gomes is potentially the predecessor to a more significant move and Anthony Slater makes a quality observation here: Remember Eric Maynor? The Thunder traded him to Portland last season at the deadline for a $2.3 million trade exception. That expires Feb. 21, and essentially it’s a pretend player worth $2.3 million that the Thunder can send somewhere to match a salary to complete a trade.
By NBA rules, you can’t send a team over the salary cap a first or second round pick without the salaries lining up. So with the Thunder having some assets, they’d be limited as to who they could deal with. But with the trade exception which oh so conveniently lines up with how much they’re under the tax, they could now send that Dallas protected first rounder (a one of the second rounders they just got) and the exception somewhere to get a player back. And not break into the tax.
So… let me spare you the research and find players currently making $2.3 million or less this season that could be realistic targets.
Iman Shumpert, Knicks
He’s making $1,703,760 this season and $2.6 million next. His name has come up in trade rumors all over the place, but with him being one of the Knicks only young assets, they’ll likely want more than what OKC would offer in return.
C.J. Miles, Cavaliers
Sam Presti signed him to an offer sheet five years ago that the Jazz matched. He’s currently just had his contract become guaranteed for the rest of this season at $2,225,000. He’s a solid 2-guard, and one that just had a game in which he made 10-14 from 3 while scoring 34 points. A decent defender, a solid shooter. Something the Thunder could certainly use.
Gary Neal, Bucks
OK, so he’s making more than $2.3 million ($3.25 million), so if the Thunder were going to nab him and stay under the tax, they’d need to send something else out (goodbye Hasheem Thabeet?). But the Bucks are reportedly shopping him and he certainly fits a need the Thunder have: perimeter shooting. He’s got serious playoff experience, has come up big in spots and can play both point guard and shooting guard. Seems like a solid fit.
Mike Dunleavy, Bulls
Same story as Neal as Dunleavy’s making $3.1 million this season. But the Bulls appear to be nearing fire sale mode which means veteran players like Dunleavy become very available. He’s a dynamite 3-point shooter and while not a good defender or all that versatile, having him in a Westbrook-Jackson/Lamb-Durant-Ibaka lineup would be pretty stellar.
Jimmer Fredette, Kings
I continue to be a believer of Fredette if he was given a good situation and put in a place he could fit. His contract: He’s making $2.439,840 this season, so in order to acquire him and not break the tax, a few cap gymnastic may have to be deployed. But he’s clearly got perimeter shooting ability, can play point guard and (less Derek Fisher!) and has the potential to score points in bunches. Jimmer hasn’t lived up the hype he had coming out of BYU, but he hasn’t exactly been in the best place to blossom. Get him in a role he fits and is comfortable in, on a contender, and maybe you get the best he has to offer.
Jodie Meeks, Lakers
He’s making $1.5 million this season and is on an expiring. The Lakers clearly don’t want anything back, but seeing as their season is going south in a hurry, they might be willing to dump a few players for a couple future assets. I certainly wouldn’t offer a first round pick for Meeks, but a second? Sure.
Nick Young, Lakers
Anthony Morrow, Pelicans
Morrow’s situation: Making $1,027,424 million this season, playing 15.4 minutes a game, shooting 44 percent from 3 and averaging 6.1 points. The downside: He has a player option for next season of $1.1 million, and the Thunder probably don’t want to risk having that tacked on to the books.
Nate Robinson, Nuggets
I think I’m kidding again. I think. (He’s making $2 million this season with a player option of $2.1 million next season.)