Congratulations! You’ve made it past December 15, and now most players in the NBA are eligible for trade. The Thunder have been heavily rumored in trade talks–not surprising considering they’ve got a variety of veteran players who would help contenders but just started a rebuild. Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams, Chris Paul, and Dennis Schröder have been bandied about as trade machine fodder for weeks now. Sure, Gallo might get dealt for a generic trade package of expiring salary and a pick that everyone expects. Maybe CP3 will finally end up in Miami, or Adams somehow winds up in Boston. But that’s no fun to talk about. Instead, let’s get creative with some interesting, if unlikely, trade ideas:
1. CP3 to Utah1
Utah has starts slowly every season, but this season just feels different. The schedule hasn’t been quite as tough as previous years and they’ve looked just out of sorts. The bench is a mess, but just as importantly their big offseason acquisition has been terrible by his standards. Mike Conley is posting a career low true shooting percentage and a worse BPM than every season of his career since his sophomore year. On a team that really wanted another playmaker, he hasn’t alleviated Donovan Mitchell’s load and the Jazz defense has even dipped a bit. Swapping him out for a surging Chris Paul might make their short term prospects more interesting. And if they could do so without giving up too much, maybe they’ll stay on the phone long enough to take some long term money from Oklahoma City. Swapping point guards (Conley has a player option that cuts a year off CP3’s deal) while adding in Dante Exum as salary filler, plus a second round pick, upgrades the Jazz short term and reduces OKC’s payroll long term. Given OKC’s rebuild it also may push Conley to opt out and save another year of salary.
2. Adams to the Warriors (with Minnesota)
Now we’re starting to get weird. It’s no secret the Timberwolves chased D’Angelo Russell this summer. It’s no secret the Warriors don’t have a reliable big man (sorry Kevon Looney, but as solid as you are, I’d feel better with a lot of other starters). The Thunder are trying to collect assets.
In this trade the Thunder grab a first round pick via Minnesota and an interesting young wing, either in Keita Bates-Diop or Josh Okogie depending on which salary filler the Wolves prefer. If it’s Teague’s expiring contract, Bates-Diop should suffice. If OKC wants Okogie (who has had a much stronger start to his career) they’d have to take back Dieng and give up Terrance Ferguson for a second round pick as well, which at this point is probably about his value given where he was drafted and how he’s performed.
3. Adams to the Spurs (with Portland)
A second Adams trade, this one a bit more tame. Sending Steve to the Spurs gives Pop a player who is incredibly smart and young enough to help build the Spurs back to where they hope to be again. I don’t know that San Antonio is desiring a full blown rebuild, and Adams can help bridge that gap better than what the Blazers could give them2. The Spurs would send LaMarcus Aldridge back to his old team in Portland for a reunion, where they’d hope to re-sign him to maybe play alongside Nurkic when healthy since Adams certainly wouldn’t fit in that role. OKC snags a first round pick and Hassan Whiteside’s expiring salary.
4. Gallo to the Magic
Another thought: What if instead of collecting more draft assets, Presti decides to give some up to acquire a more interesting young target? In this case he’d do just that. Orlando’s offense has been mostly anemic for the last few years with cramped spacing and not much shot creation. Gallinari could add a little bit of both; if he plans on re-signing after the season maybe the Magic are interested. Aaron Gordon is one of their 12 forwards and, though he flashes a ton of promise at times, still seems to be a mystery box as far as how good he can or will actually become. He’s on a declining contract and owed approximately $19.8M, $18.1M, and $16.4M each of the next three seasons. He’s only 24 and has shown a fair bit of defensive potential. If the Magic decide he’s not the ideal fit next to their other prized young forward Jonathan Isaac, maybe they bite on Gallo, a protected first, and a second round pick (or maybe two firsts).
5. Nuggets/Pelicans/Thunder get crazy
For the last trade, why not go extra crazy? The Nuggets want to make a real push after tasting contention last season. OKC wants assets, and the Pelicans have recently been rumored to be taking offers for Jrue Holiday. Holiday would be a near perfect fit for Denver and Gallinari could add another great offensive threat to a team that’s started incredibly well on defense and been a little disappointing offensively (Denver ranks third on defense but only 19th on offense as of this writing). Maybe grabbing a potential shooting guard for the rebuild in 23 year old Malik Beasley and an expiring contract would entice Sam Presti, while New Orleans grabs Gary Harris, Will Barton and draft compensation. Just to balance out the Nuggets roster, Nerlens Noel would also be sent to Denver for an additional second round pick (assuming he waives his no trade clause).
No, none of these trades are terribly likely to happen and yes, some of them are a little out there. But when you mix and max destinations, assets, players, and converging interests, there might be a few more teams around the NBA that could partner with the Thunder in trade talks than initially meets the eye.