Before Darnell Mayberry came along and stole my, ahem, thunder by writing an article saying the Thunder would not be making any major deals this season, I had already researched what kind of major deals the team might make. While Mayberry makes some pretty good points about not wanting to take time from the developing players to make a run at the playoffs prematurely, he also says: “From the start, the front office has been fixated on finding long-term playoff success, not fiddling with moves that bring five more wins.”
Who is to say fiddling for five more wins now wouldn’t be the best way to set up long-term playoff success? Think about it. The core of the team, and most of the players expected to fill out the rotation for a long time, are getting plenty of playing time during the regular season. As they have learned, usually through hard knocks, to win, the one thing that has not been simulated in playoff basketball. The run-up and, hopefully, first taste of a playoff atmosphere could pay huge dividends in the long run…especially if the tweaks made do not handcuff the team financially.
There are some deals that could be made that could help the team now and in the future. The questions then becomes, what does the team need and what can they give up?
As for what they should target, the first priority should be improved shooting. Right now, the team really struggles at opening up the floor. They have a couple of guys who can hit an open three-pointer (Jeff Green, James Harden) but when outside shooting is necessary, those guys can’t be counted on since the defense won’t sag to help in the paint.
Another way the team could improve is to acquire a dominant rebounder that would alleviate the need for the guards to crash the boards and hopefully stop turning the DeJuan Blair’s and Chuck Hayes’ of the world into superstars.
Now, as for assets the team could part with to improve these aspects of the team, a short list would include:
- Etan Thomas – who possesses an expiring contract (making him attractive to other franchises looking to alleviate long term payroll) and has fallen far out of the Thunder rotation. Although, as a veteran big man, he should still have value.
- D.J. White – Great potential, good offensive big man. Not cracking the Thunder rotation, though, means he’s expendable.
- Byron Mullens – Another guy with potential, his recent call up and game time could mean the team is showcasing him for potential trades as much as it could mean the team thinks he’s ready to contribute.
- Matt Harpring – His expiring contract, which is paid by an insurance company, will become tradable prior to the trade deadline.
- Two first round draft picks in the 2010 draft. Neither is necessarily valuable to the Thunder who are already loaded with developing talent.
- Money — The Thunder are one team that is fiscally in shape to take on some extra salary or even add some cold hard cash as sweetener in a deal.
After the jump, I outline some deals that could potentially make sense.