It’s deadline week. Oh boy! Everyone loves deadline week. Speculation and trade chatter reach their boiling points as people say things like, “Meyers Leonard for Arron Afflalo, who says no?” even though it never comes close to making any sense.
The idea of a trade is often a whole lot more fun that the actual trade. Because thinking about say, Anthony Morrow and his sharpshooting ability is a lot more entertaining that actually having Anthony Morrow on your roster now. Because the newness of the trade wears off quickly.
The question for the Thunder as they move up to the deadline is if they feel it necessary to make a move in order to win a championship. Do they feel they’re missing a player? Do they feel like someone is available that could really contribute to a title run?
Because as it stands right now, the Thunder are already making the best move of anyone in the league on deadline day — they’re adding Russell Westbrook back. The existing team is probably good enough and while adding a piece wouldn’t hurt, the Thunder have proven that they’re built to contend as is.
Still, with assets and trade exceptions in bulk, the Thunder are probably going to look to maximize what they have. The $2.3 million Eric Maynor trade exception expires on Feb. 21, a day after the deadline, and as we’ve seen time and again, Sam Presti does not like letting valuable assets expire without getting something back.
And of course, that trade exception is conveniently for the same amount the Thunder are currently under the tax. How about that.
I’ve already outlined what the Thunder could do with it, but let’s look at what kind of tradeable assets the Thunder have:
- 2014 first round pick
- Top 20 protected 2014 first round pick (Mavericks)
- 2014 second round pick (Sixers)
- $2.3 million trade exception
- $6.5 million trade exception
- $884,680 trade exception
- Non-NBA owner players (Tibor Pleiss, Grant Jerrett, Latavious Williams, Abdul Shamsid-Deen, Alex Abrines, Yotam Halperin, DeVon Hardin, Szymon Szewczyk, Georgios Printezis, Paccelis Morlende). A note on those: Pleiss, Jarrett and Abrines are actually valuable, while the other would just be tossed into a deal in order to complete it, i.e. for a trade exception.
- Young players like Reggie Jackson, Steven Adams, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones III and Andre Roberson
- Expiring deals: Thabo Sefolosha
The Thunder aren’t trading Jackson, Adams, Lamb or probably Roberson, and likely wouldn’t part with Jones at this point unless it was a home run deal (especially with him looking like another body to throw at LeBron). Obviously untouchable is Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka, but really, there aren’t too many trade scenarios where I could see OKC willing to part with anyone on the roster. The Thunder aren’t looking to subtract. They only want to add. Remember: This is currently the best team in basketball that’s about to add a top five player back to the mix. You don’t go about shaking that up.
Which is where the picks and trade exceptions come in. But consider this: Presti doesn’t trade first round picks. In his tenure, he has only traded a first round pick twice in his tenure. Once to acquire Thabo Sefolosha at the deadline, and once in the Jeff Green-Kendrick Perkins deal. And both times, they were extra first rounders acquired from somewhere else. Presti acquires first rounders; he doesn’t give them away.
Obviously, though, the Thunder are in a little different place now. They’re mostly past the building phase and are into the championship run part. The Thunder covet and value draft picks because selecting and developing young players is part of their core values, but with a championship-level team already in place, there isn’t near as high a priority on that anymore.
The right deal comes along, I could see the Thunder parting with a first rounder. But the Thunder don’t “toss in” first round picks. If they deal one, it’s done with careful consideration.
But remember: They’re about $2.3 under the luxury tax, something they desperately want to remain under for this season. So any deal that involves them will almost assuredly include staying under that. So if you’re out there playing on the Trade Machine trying to get Arron Afflalo to Oklahoma City, you’re going to have to figure out how to add $7.5 million to the Thunder’s salary while sitting that under the tax.
Just a hunch, but if the Thunder are dealing, it’s going to be a smaller, secondary kind of deal that adds a player that fits in that $2.3 million slot. They’re looking for a shooter, and there are quality names out there — C.J. Miles, Jimmer, Mike Dunleavy, Gary Neal — but is a trade exception and a second rounder enough to do it?
So as the deadline comes and goes on Thursday, don’t get your hopes up expecting some kind of Thunder blockbuster. And don’t assume if they stand pat that they’re not trying to “go for it” this season. Remember the offseason when the Thunder didn’t sign anyone and there were loud grumbles about how Presti was letting a championship window pass him by? Yeah, so keep that in mind this week.