OKC Thunder 2018 Trade Deadline Primer

The trade deadline primers for team blogs are usually released about a week to two before the trade deadline. And I was planning on doing the same, but then I thought to myself, “Hold up. Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti hardly ever makes a trade that isn’t on the day of the deadline. In fact, he’s usually one of those GM’s that’s on the phone making deals until the very last second of the deadline.” With that in mind, I said to myself, “Self, we’re not releasing this article until February 8th (a.k.a. the trade deadline).”

And if you think I spend an inordinate amount of time talking to myself, you may be right. In my defense, I can’t really help it. My internal voice is the “stay thirsty, my friends” Dos Equis guy.

If I had written this article two weeks ago, it would be completely null and void because of the Andre Roberson season-ending injury that occurred 11 days. If I had written this article a week ago, I wouldn’t have seen the general cluster (you know what) the team had become in the five games after the Roberson injury. And if I had written this article before Tuesday night’s thrashing of the Golden State Warriors in their arena, then my judgement could have been clouded by the negativity of the four-game losing streak the Thunder had heading into the Warriors’ game.This is where the Thunder stand now. They are 31-24, good for 5th in the West. They are 2.5 games from slipping out of the playoff race and 2.5 games from jumping into 4th place. Over the past 13 games, they’ve seen an 8-game win streak followed by a 4-game losing streak, and ending with a blowout victory against the defending champion Warriors at their place. Other than needing meds for being bi-polar, what exactly does this team need?

Needs:

  • A two-way wing (preferably a veteran with playoff experience than can also handle the ball from time to time and create)
  • A back-up big man (preferably on a cheap contract or maybe even a buyout)
  • A consistent scorer off the bench (they’ll likely take it however they can get it)

Now, seeing as this is the trade deadline and not the “free-for-all, take what you want” deadline, the Thunder will have to seek the approval of another party to get the player(s) they want. To get this approval, the Thunder will need to send something over to the other party of their liking. And unfortunately, the 38 year old bottle of scotch in Presti’s cellar is not an option. So what do the Thunder have to offer?

Realistic Assets:

  • $2.55 million Traded Player Exception
  • $1.49 million Traded Player Exception
  • 2018 Boston Celtics 2nd round pick (Top 55 protected)
  • 2018 Thunder 2nd round pick
  • Alex Abrines – $5.725 million this season ($5.455 guaranteed for next season)
  • Terrance Ferguson – $1.785 million this season (3 yrs/$8.5 million remain after this season) *Because of the Thunder’s lack of a first round pick for the foreseeable future, Ferguson could act as a first round pick for a team.*
  • Kyle Singler – $4.667 million this season ($4.996 million guaranteed for next season)
  • Josh Huestis – $1.471 million this season (unrestricted free agent after this year)
  • Jerami Grant – $1.524 million this season (unrestricted free agent after this year)
  • Patrick Patterson – $5.19 million this season (2 yrs/$11.2 million remain after this season, with the final season being a player option)
  • Dakari Johnson – $816,000 this season ($1.378 million guaranteed for next season)

The reality is, the Thunder don’t have a lot to offer to other teams. One of their most coveted pieces is Terrance Ferguson, but Ian Begley of ESPN reported on Tuesday, “the Thunder have no desire to move the 19-year old rookie, according to sources”. With the Thunder’s lack of a tradeable first round pick until 2024, Ferguson could have substituted as a first round pick for many teams. Jerami Grant seems to be another player teams may covet, but his value to the Thunder this season as a 3/4/5 hybrid, especially with Roberson now being out, may outweigh his value as a trade piece. These two players are basically untouchables, hence the strike-throughs.

In essence, that leaves the Thunder with two small trade exceptions, two 2nd round picks in this year’s draft, Alex Abrines, Josh Huestis, Kyle Singler, and Patrick Patterson as their only realistic trade assets. The Thunder like Abrines, but he hasn’t been dependable on the defensive end of the floor. The Warriors’ game may have shown the Thunder the value of having someone like Patterson on their roster. He may move into the untouchable list, unless something of extreme value comes along. While has shown flashes, Huestis is a lot more replaceable than Grant is.

I wouldn’t necessarily call what the Thunder have to offer a pirate’s booty. But don’t fret, Thunder fans. The wild card is the desires and psyche of the other team. Do they want to shed salary? Are they ready to start a rebuild? Has an injury caused them to shift course on their outlook? These are all things that need to be considered during a trade.

Think back to last summer. A player like Paul George would have likely fetched a couple first round picks and some desirable player acquisitions in a normal trade scenario. But once his people leaked to the press that he, not only wanted a trade, but also wanted to go to Los Angeles, his stock as a tradeable asset plummeted. Oklahoma City would have probably never had a chance to get George in a normal scenario. But when that monkey wrench was thrown into the mix, the Thunder pounced and acquired George while only giving up two young players.

As far as targets, the Thunder would likely prefer players who aren’t on large contracts that still have 2-3 years left on them. The Thunder’s luxury tax issues will be their boogie monster in the next few season, so finding ways to acquire reasonably priced players on shorter deals would be their desire. With that said, here are ten possible targets.

1. Jonathon Simmons – Orlando Magic -$6.3 million this season (2 years, $11.7 million guaranteed after this season)

Simmons has averaged 14.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists while shooting 33.8% from deep this season. The 6’6″ guard is a bulldog of a defender and would likely slide into the starting 2-guard role if the Thunder acquired him. But don’t expect him to be a Roberson clone. He’s a completely different type of defender. Whereas Roberson’s body and length allowed him to slip under screens and recover on shooters, Simmons is more of a bully-defender in the Dion Waiters mold.

Outside of Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon, it seems like everyone else on the Magic roster is at play. The Magic would love to attach one of their larger deals (Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, or Bismack Biyombo) to this, but most teams would balk at that. If it’s not able to shed salary, Orlando may be satisfied with young players and picks. And the Thunder can offer that in the form of Abrines and a second rounder for Simmons. Abrines only has one year left on his deal after this season and would be a restricted free agent after that.

2. Mario Hezonja – Orlando Magic – $4.078 million this season (unrestricted free agent after this year)

Hezonja has been a disappointment in his 3-year run on the Magic. The No. 5 pick in the 2015 draft has averaged only 6.1 points and 2.5 rebounds for his career while shooting just 33.8% from deep. Billed as an athletic scorer/creator out of Europe, Hezonja lack of consistent shooting and poor defensive play has relegated him to the bench for much of the past two seasons. But, alas, over the past 15 games, Hezonja has averaged 12.1 points on 39.1% shooting from deep. While not necessarily starter material, Hezonja could be a good piece off the bench for the Thunder. Maybe a combo deal of Hezonja and Simmons for Abrines, Singler, and Huestis could do the trick.

3. Dewayne Dedmon – Atlanta Hawks – $6 million this season ($6.3 million player option next season)

Dedmon, a product of the San Antonio Spurs system, is averaging 10 points and 7.6 rebounds on 39.3% shooting from deep on 1.7 three-point attempts. Having Dedmon on the team will allow the Thunder to slide Patterson over to his natural PF position, which he will be more effective. The Hawks are in the beginning stages of a rebuild and have a young center, John Collins, that they would like to develop as much as possible. Having Dedmon in the way hinders that a bit. Atlanta will likely be looking for draft picks and young players. Kyle Singer, Dakari Johnson, and 2 second rounders may do the trick.

4. Wayne Ellington – Miami Heat – $6.27 million this season (unrestricted free agent after this season)

Ellingon is averaging 11.2 points on 39% shooting from deep. The 6’5″ shooting guard could be a candidate to either start or come off the bench for the Thunder. His defense has helped Miami be a top-10 team on defense this year. Now the question becomes: what does Miami want? The Heat are a hard team to read in terms of what their plans are for next season. They’ve shown they can be a top 4-6 team in the East, but can their ceiling get any higher with the players they currently have? This is where I think the Heat will try to stockpile assets in the form of young players and picks for their expiring veterans. Abrines and a 2nd could do it for Ellington.

5. Courtney Lee – New York Knicks – $11.748 million this season (2 years, $25 million guaranteed after this season)

Lee is averaging 13.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists on 41.6% shooting from deep this season. He’s an okay defender, a good ball-handler, and a good creator off the dribble. He would fit in well with the starters and could also help the reserve unit if necessary. The Thunder’s only hesitation will likely be the money and years remaining on his deal. The Thunder will be facing luxury tax concerns for the next several seasons, so having one player suck up $12.5 million on average for the next two seasons after this one may not be something the Thunder want to do. Then again, if the Thunder are in a “win now, screw the money” type mindset, they may try this deal. Abrines, Singler, and a 2nd is the most I would offer. Abrines and Singler both come off the books after next season and the Knicks have the ability to control Abrines through restricted free agency.

6. Rodney Hood – Utah Jazz – $2.387 million this season (restricted free agent after this season)

Hood is averaging 16.8 points on 39.7% shooting from deep. The 6’8″ wing can be a force offensively, but lacks effort on the defensive end. Many think Utah may be growing tired of his antics and would like to get something back for him in case he leaves after this season. He’s on the final year of his rookie deal and any team that obtains him will have his Bird rights as he heads into free agency. I don’t necessarily see him as a starter on the Thunder, but he’d be great as a 6th man. With that said, I think Utah may want something like Jerami Grant or Terrance Ferguson for Hood, and in my opinion, that is a no-go. Hood actually fits into the bigger of their traded player exceptions, but I don’t think that and 2 second rounders would do the trick for Hood.

7. Alec Burks – Utah Jazz – $10.846 million this season ($11.537 million guaranteed for next season)

Sticking with Utah, Burks is currently averaging 9.1 points and 3.4 rebounds on 33.1% shooting from deep. The knock on Burks is that he is constantly hurt. But when he’s healthy, he’s a solid player. One of those players that doesn’t necessarily do anything great, but is good at most facets of the game. With that said, he’s a bit overpaid for what he does, especially with the health concerns. This is where it’s almost beneficial to have a bad expiring contract. But the Thunder have none of those, and I think the cost to get Burks could be a bit too much for the Thunder.

8. Marcus Smart – Boston Celtics – $4.538 million this season (restricted free agent after this season)

The Oklahoma State product is averaging 10.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.3 steals this season. He won’t provide you much from the perimeter, but he can change a game with his defense. He reminds of a perimeter-minded Draymond Green. He’s only 6’3″, so I don’t know about starting him with Westbrook, but he has the ability to guard point guards to small-ball power forwards. The Celtics are looking for a first round pick for Smart, so the Thunder may not have the necessary assets to acquire Smart.

9. Avery Bradley – $8.81 million this season (unrestricted free agent after this season)

Bradley is currently averaging 14.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.2 steals on 37.4% shooting from deep. This has been a little of a down year for Bradley as he moved from Boston to Detroit and then Detroit to Los Angeles. He’d be a rental, but the Clippers are probably looking for a first round pick for Bradley, as well as expiring contracts. Again, things the Thunder don’t have.

10. Marco Belinelli – $6.61 million this season (unrestricted free agent after this season)

Belinelli is averaging 11.4 points and 2 assists per game on 37.2% shooting from deep. Belinelli is not a starter on the Thunder, but he would be a great fit off the bench. But he’s one of those pieces you don’t necessarily want the Thunder spending too much to acquire. If the asking price is anything more than Kyle Singler and a 2nd, it’s already too expensive.

There are honestly a ton more options here for the Thunder. Players like Garrett Temple, Tyreke Evans, or Stanley Johnson could also be in play for the Thunder. If there is one thing I know, it’s that Presti drums to his own beat. And he may pull out a name that was not mentioned above. Or he may stand pat and wait for the buy-out market. But one thing you can be sure of, Presti will be working the phones until 1:59:59 CST on Thursday trying to make the Thunder better.

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