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A note from the editor:
Who is on the Thunder, really?
Many player names are, at the moment, on the Thunder. But there are only 15 guaranteed slots for the regular season, and teams can carry up to 20 before opening night with a combination of guaranteed, two-way, and training camp invites (exhibit 10) contracts.
Usually it’s pretty easy to use the process of elimination and know who is who, regardless of the reported details at this stage. But the Thunder’s activity over the last month makes that trickier than normal. Along with the names, these are the other factors we know about the front office’s dealings:
- OKC is comfortable waiving guaranteed money. This means that even if a player is currently occupying one of the 15 guaranteed slots, they are not necessarily marrying him at the aisle of December 22 (season start).
- The blockbuster Al Horford/Danny Green trade agreement with the Sixers is only in place for now, as the heaviest domino piece yet to fall (on December 8, we believe).
- The Thunder made multiple draft selections/acquisitions from overseas who could or could not come stateside to begin their NBA career (with the added complication of, often, needing to be bought out from their international team’s contract within CBA limitations).
- More (!) trades are very possible considering there are still a) moveable veterans on the roster and b) unproven players at the bottom tier of salary commitments (see point 1).
I would wager that even Sam Presti doesn’t know the opening night roster. Of course he has a plan for who goes into which slot as is, and what steps are needed to get the current group lined out, but this is not a time of locking in your dream rotation for the long-term ASAP. Rather, the team will be perpetually kicking tires on the back end of the roster while hoping to see more on the top end cement themselves while developing into good to great players. As this team begins to nosedive into development and evaluation mode for young players, expect there to be plenty of fliers churned through every level of Thunder basketball–the G League is suddenly relevant, and not just because of Dortmania.
So here’s my educated guesswork on who is really comprising the 2020-21 Oklahoma City Thunder. Your 14-man list:
The last four in bold are all the priority trade candidates, but we don’t have any indication that they’ll be moved just yet. They also would not be waived anytime before the trade deadline, in my estimation.
These four players are all on “real” (guaranteed) deals as well, but I think each would be moved or waived if the season started today with no other transactional changes:
And don’t forget Josh Hall and Moses Brown, who are on two-way contracts. Anyone else’s name you have or will see as a Thunder addition? Pencil them in as training camp invites (non-guaranteed).
The reason I have it at 14 instead of 15: teams are allowed to keep one slot open, and can even drop down to 13 players for two weeks at a time during the season. I think they’ll preserve that flexibility for most of the season, ready to sign a player into a slot without too many complications. Theo Maledon is the most likely candidate to fill a “real” spot, as he could be added before the season or during it (I’m guessing he’s a lock to come over if/when George Hill is traded, if not sooner).
For those of you looking to grab onto something firm in this “what is real?” era of Thunder roster machinations, there’s my best attempt at an anchor. For those of you who are fiending for more shake-up, please accept this attempt to write names in pen instead of pencil as my jinx.
– Cray Allred