Thunder Trade Talk Heating Up
By Randy Renner
What will the Thunder roster look like tomorrow night when the team takes the floor at The Peake against the Dallas Mavericks?
Could we already have seen the last game in Thunder uniforms for Reggie Jackson? Kendrick Perkins? Perry Jones? Jeremy Lamb?
If you believe some (or all) of the rumors and talk on the internet this week the answer is probably yes. And the most likely replacements (according to the talk) would be Brook Lopez, Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler.
The trade deadline always provokes all sorts of rumors some are the result of actual talks that are actually going on but most are smokescreens, leaks from teams and player agents for the most part, designed to create interest and diversions.
Some of what's been out there this week include this tweet from Alex Kennedy of BasketballInsiders.com:
"Execs say Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, Adams are staying but anyone else could be had for the right offer."
That sounds a little too desperate for the Thunder to actually be working on that sort of premise but I guess it depends on the offer.
And if you believe Grantland's Zach Lowe maybe the Thunder are desperate. Lowe wrote in his trade primer this week that the team is "under massive pressure to win now."
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com writes his sources around the NBA are saying "Rival teams expect the Thunder to move Reggie Jackson before the deadline, a move that would help them step out of the luxury tax this season and help them stay out of the tax in future years."
The Thunder are about $2 million into the luxury tax right now and Jackson is on the books for $2.2 million. But in order to stay under the tax and get a quality player back the Thunder would almost certainly have to include Perkins and his expiring $9.65 million contract. Either Chandler ($6.7 million) or Afflalo ($7.5 million) would fit. Both players have options in excess of $7 million for next season but only about $2 million of Chandler's is guaranteed.
The Thunder have long been rumored to be interested in Afflalo but nothing has ever come of it. The Nuggets are in full fire-sale mode and appear willing to part with almost anyone if the price is right. So far it's been too high for the Thunder. The Nuggets are believed to be asking for two first round draft picks or one first-rounder and a promising player in exchange for either Afflalo or Chandler.
The Thunder have also been involved off and on with the Brooklyn Nets about a deal that would bring center Brook Lopez to the Thunder. The Thunder had previously offered the Nets Perkins, Jones and Lamb for Lopez but the Nets weren't willing to go for that deal.
Lopez is making $15.7 million this season and has a player option for $16.7 million next season. That seems like a lot of money to risk on a guy who has had some nagging injuries, isn't the best post defender and doesn't average as many rebounds as he probably should. Yes he can score points (career 17.7 points per game) but the Thunder don't exactly need a lot of points from that position.
All of the talk is fascinating and it's sure to heat up even more as Thursday's 2pm central time deadline approaches.
But don't be surprised if when all is said and done the Thunder roster Thursday night against the Mavs is same one the team had last Wednesday night against Memphis.
Jackson is still valuable to the Thunder for a playoff run and with Steven Adams out at least another couple of weeks with that broken hand Perkins is the starting center for now and we all know his value in Western Conference playoff series with the likes of Memphis, San Antonio, the Clippers and Rockets.
Jones and Lamb will probably stay too because at this point, there's not much interest in either of them as their playing time and production keeps evaporating.
We'll keep you updated on all the rumors here on the blog and instantly on our Twitter feed page.