The 2018 NBA trade deadline has come and gone without a move from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite a flawed roster that features Andre Roberson being out for the remainder of the season, the team-construct will remain as-is for the time being. Sam Presti’s next opportunity to improve his squad will come in the buyout market.
Below are a few quick thoughts.
(1) Not good for the Thunder
Before getting too deep into this, it feels important to acknowledge that it takes two teams to complete a deal. While the Thunder desperately needed to add some help by way of trade, it simply didn’t happen. The immediate reaction is “WTF Sam?!” but it’s highly unlikely that he didn’t try to pull a rabbit out of his hat once more. It didn’t work out and that’s really all there is to it. The Thunder lacks many attractive bargaining chips.
However, failing to bolster the current roster is a loss for the Thunder. The team is in dire need of help in the wake of Roberson’s injury, and the market was seemingly full of players that are preferable to the Thunder’s current options. Rodney Hood was dealt to Cleveland for Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder, Noah Vonleh was sent to Chicago for the rights to some guy I’ve never heard of… While both are just examples (and neither would have fixed OKC), the price tag on serviceable help didn’t appear to be very high.
The Thunder will move forward and continue trying to replace Roberson with a blend of Josh Huestis, Terrance Ferguson, Alex Abrines, Jerami Grant, and others. Having Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Steven Adams, and Carmelo Anthony will give OKC a puncher’s chance against most, but defensive help on the wing goes unaddressed.
(2) Looming Lakers
Just last night, USA Today’s Sam Amick released an interview with Paul George, in which George addressed his future by saying:
“I don’t know if whether I’m going to LA, or what I’m going to do this offseason. But I can say I am happy about being here. I’m happy with playing with Russ, happy with playing with Melo, and this organization.”
So what did the Lakers do today? They sent Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and a top-3 protected first round draft pick. In other words, due to the expiring contracts of Thomas and Frye, Los Angeles freed up as much as $70 million this summer, paving the way toward having space for two max-contracts once free agency begins. Convenient!
George has been open about his fondness for playing for the Thunder but the possibility of Los Angeles has/will always be there. OKC could have positioned itself for a deeper playoff run by adding to the roster — as it stands, the organization must hope it’s good enough right now to do that anyway.
(3) Hope in the buyout market
In what is being billed as a potentially fruitful buyout market, there should be players available in the coming weeks that can assist the Thunder in its playoff push. That will continue to unfold ahead of the March 1 deadline for such transactions, but names like Tony Allen, Joe Johnson, Joakim Noah, Marco Belinelli, and others figure to be in the mix. None of this screams “Game Changer!” but there are upgrades in the bunch.
So while today’s deadline was a disappointment for the Thunder, the prospect of adding help is still out there. Sam Presti has an open roster spot (as do many other teams) and will look to strengthen the roster in the next couple of weeks. Those chips should start to fall in short order.