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We’ve hit the halfway point of the NBA season, and an overperforming Thunder squad has everybody happy and nobody happy all at the same time.
On one hand, no orange and blue blooded Oklahoma City fan can deny this team’s Chex Mix of endearing youth and salary filler veterans’ energy and effort, combined with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s rise to stardom and Lu Dort’s Tasmanian defense, has been a joy to witness.
On the other hand, no man who stans Sam I Am can deny this team’s standing in no man’s land. The Thunder are 15-21 at the break, exactly three games behind Memphis for the last play-in playoff spot and exactly three games behind Houston for the last best chance of a top 4 draft pick. Close enough to whet the appetites of those hungry for a Thunder postseason and close enough to whittle away hours simming the Tankathon lottery for those thirsty to chug a Suggs. But in reality, too far away for either to come to fruition.
The Thunder will make moves by the March 25th trade deadline to acquire talent to help the team win… in 2023. Assuming OKC picks up where their record-breaking offseason trading frenzy left off, the question becomes: who stays and who goes?
I’ve ranked every player on the Thunder roster from most to least likely to be traded. And to clarify, OKC will not be dealing these guys for Bradley Beal or Karl-Anthony Towns. Expect draft picks and young prospects. (I’ll grant Sam Presti a hall pass for John Collins.)
- George Hill. If someone were to Weird Science the perfect trade specimen, Hill would be the NBA’s Kelly LeBrock. An elite shooter, a solid defender, a quality playmaker, can play the 1 or the 2, can start or come off the bench, high basketball IQ, classy veteran, positive locker room presence, playoff experience and a high value contract with another year remaining that is easily matched by any playoff team. Now excuse me as I take this bra off my head.
- Trevor Ariza. Can’t help but wonder how competitive a starting lineup of SGA-Hill-Dort-Ariza-Horford could’ve been this season. With Magic Mark at the helm, that’s a 6 seed in the East. Woj has hinted Ariza has a market. Presti is going to turn a dude last playing for the skins team at the South Beach YMCA into a draft pick, isn’t he?
- Mike Muscala. How many playoff teams could use a 7 footer off the bench who is scoring near double digits, shooting 37% from 3 and is paid a penny pinching $2.3 million? Sixteen. OKC needs to trade Moose away before he shoots OKC’s Cade chances away.
- Al Horford. Can Presti parlay two untradeable contracts for positive picks in a four month span? Horford is on Presti’s Paul Plan: trade for an older, former All Star considered washed, wash him off, wring a team dry for draft compensation, rinse and repeat.
- Hamidou Diallo. The biggest mystery of them all. Hami is a young, high energy scorer and rebounder who could remain a core bench piece moving forward. But he’s an expiring contract who will want a bigger pay day, and it might not make sense for OKC to be the one to sign the Cheick.
- Darius Miller. The perfect neutral, midsized expiring contract ($7 million) that may be needed to help facilitate a trade. Bonus: he can still come off the bench and hit a few 3s in a pinch!
- Kenrich Williams. Kenny Hustle’s contract is second only to Luguentz’s in the bang for your buck department. A triple mullet headed threat of three point shooting, defense and micro money, Williams is the cherry on top sweetener in any deal.
- Justin Jackson. The Bucks killer is a 25 year old former #15 overall pick on an expiring $5 million deal. You could do worse for a salary filler.
- Isaiah Roby. The Breakfast Club spokesman has done just enough to keep the Thunder’s attention as a developmental piece if/when Horford/Moose are moved. One person who wishes Roby would’ve been traded before the All Star break: Jakob Poeltl.
- Ty Jerome. Thunder fans forgot Jerome was on the team until three games ago. Now they’d be heartbroken to wish Ty goodbye.
- Darius Bazley. OKC will be patient in trying to unlock Baze’s salivating upside rather than trade him at his current value: a used pair of Trayvon Bromell 1’s.
- Theo Maledon. Theo cost OKC a 2nd round pick in 2020. He’d cost teams a 1st round pick in 2021.
- Aleksej Pokusevski. You think Sam Presti dashed the Blue’s playoff dreams just to trade away Serbia’s foremost Fanny Pack model? No chance.
- Lu Dort. The key to stopping James Harden and the Brooklyn Nets wears a Thunder jersey. Sam Presti will let him don another team’s colors, but you gotta make him an offer he can’t refuse.
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. OKC wouldn’t trade SGA for Paul George, Danilo Gallinari, 5 1st round picks and 2 swaps.