In 2012, the Thunder remained mostly quiet at the trade deadline, holding on to the roster they had in place. Patience was the plan. But after the dust settled, Derek Fisher was bought out by the Rockets, and then signed by the Thunder, becoming part of the rotation for the team that trucked its way to the Finals.
This deadline, again, the Thunder didn’t make a trade. They tried to, didn’t. But it’s pretty clear: They have intentions of adding another player to the team anyway.
It makes sense. With two open spots available and about $2.3 million to spend before hitting the luxury tax, the Thunder are set up to make additions without subtractions. At the deadline, that’s what they wanted to accomplish, but their trade partners wanted players back.
So with the buyout market taking shape, there are some interesting names popping up available. The Thunder are going to be active in making calls. I’m pretty certain of that. But as evidenced at the trade deadline, it takes two to make a deal happen and just because the Thunder have interest, doesn’t mean it will happen. (A recent example: The Thunder offered Mike Miller. He just picked the Grizzlies.)
And a note: The deadline for buyouts is March 1.
A few names to watch:
Jimmer Fredette: JIMMMMMMUUUUUUURRR. The Thunder couldn’t, or wouldn’t, maybe, complete a trade for the Kings combo guard, but with him available for a few dollars, maybe they’ll bite. It sounded like one of the biggest holdups on deadline day was Jimmer’s lack of interest in playing for the Thunder because he didn’t think he’d see any playing time in a contract year. But who knows. Playing for a contender and possibly hitting a few postseason shots might entice him enough to change his mind.
I’m convinced that you put Jimmer on the right team, and he could be a substantial contributor. I don’t think he’ll ever live up to his draft number, or the college hype that surrounded him, but he’s a solid NBA shooter and scorer. Imagine him on the Spurs. He’d probably shoot 65 percent from 3. He might have trouble finding time in OKC because he doesn’t play defense well and Scott Brooks loves him some Derek Fisher (at this point, can you blame him), so Jimmer might be a tough sell.
(An important note about my Jimmer love: I think he’d be a helpful player because he can shoot and score a bit, but more than anything, I just really like the guy. He was awesome at BYU and his name is freaking JIMMER. Writing it in all caps is super fun. Go ahead. Try it out. You’ll want him too.)
Metta World Peace: After being amnestied by the Lakers last offseason, World Peace was interested in signing with the Thunder. I’m not totally sure the feeling was mutual, though. He ended up choosing the Knicks, and never found a footing with the team. Now, he’s been bought out by the Knicks, and according to Chris Broussard, he’s interested in OKC again, along with Miami and San Antonio.
Question is: What does he add? He’s a decent defensive player still, but his offensive skill has greatly diminished over the years (shooting under 40 percent the last four years). He adds a toughness factor, and provides depth behind KD as well as giving the Thunder another big body to throw at LeBron. But he takes minutes from Perry Jones — if there are really any minutes to be had — and may end up playing the ceremonial Ronnie Brewer role.
Danny Granger: He hasn’t been bought out by the Sixers — yet — but he’s definitely the most interesting name that could be available. In coming back from injury, he was an awkward fit in the Pacers rotation and never found his shooting stoke (35.9 percent from the field, 33 percent from 3). But he’s just 30, and averaged better than 20 points a game three straight seasons and as recently as three years ago. He can play.
But does he fit? He’d be a backup to Durant, though Granger has played some shooting guard throughout his career. He’s 6-8, and has guarding LeBron on his resume. He might not play all that much, but he’s a career 38.2 percent 3-point shooter, and would give Scott Brooks some serious options with smallball basketball. Imagine a lineup of Westbrook, Lamb/Jackson/Sefolosha, Granger, Durant and Ibaka. That looks pretty good right there.
Plus, a bonus to signing Granger: That means he can’t sign with the Heat or Spurs. Which could be important.
Beno Udrih: Pass.
Earl Clark: He was recently bought out by the 76ers and while he’s a big body and could be some depth at the forward spots, it’s hard to see him winning any playing time and compared to the other potential names, he really adds very little.
Roger Mason: A shooter, but one that’s pretty washed up and only appeared in 25 games for the Heat this season, a team that needed shooting.
Ben Gordon: This could be an interesting one to watch. Not bought out yet, but the sides are talking. He’s a proven playoff player, and can certainly make perimeter shots. He’s a bit of a ball-stopper, but the assumption is when you’re talking about the Thunder that any player would understand his role and fit when alongside Westbrook and Durant. Gordon can handle some and is decent off the dribble. He’s only appeared in 19 games this season though, and wasn’t all that productive.
Antawn Jamison: The Thunder aren’t really in great need of another stretch 4, because in what lineup would you prefer Jamison over Perry Jones, or just going small with Durant at power forward?
If I’m taking a guess, I think the top three names to watch here are Jimmer, World Peace and Granger. Some have wondered it Perk’s recent injury will impact the Thunder’s thinking, but they’re pretty well stocked with bigs, and compared to what’s available, there’s really no upgrade out there. If the Thunder are adding, they’re looking for at least one of three things: shooting, lineup versatility and defense. Preferably all three, obviously.
Like the trade deadline, there’s no guarantee the Thunder do anything. The team is in pretty quality position already, and this existing roster is every bit good enough to win an NBA title. Adding Granger or World Peace could potentially help, and probably wouldn’t hurt. But it’s a two-way street