Trade Deadline Looms And Rumors Swirl

By Randy Renner

‘Tis the season, the Silly Season, when all sorts of rumors swirl in and out of newspaper stories, website blogs and sports radio talk shows.

The NBA trade deadline hits at 2 o’clock Oklahoma time on Thursday afternoon.

Last season at this time the Thunder made some bold moves sending Kendrick Perkins to Utah and bringing in Enes Kanter and Steve Novak and also sending Reggie Jackson to Detroit while bringing in D.J. Augustin and Kyle Singler. Not to mention the January deal that brought Dion Waiters to the Thunder.

Who knows what could happen between now and Thursday afternoon but as always there are lots of possibilities.

The Thunder have three players under expiring contracts, Augustin, Novak and Kevin Durant. Rest assured KD won’t be dealt, it’s doubtful that would happen if IF he walked into Sam Presti’s office and said he definitely has decided to leave OKC at the end of his contract. That hasn’t happened yet and won’t. Here’s what the man himself said during All-Star weekend about the possibility of the Thunder trading him.

“I’ve never thought about that at all. I don’t want to be moved. I want to finish this thing out with my team. I think we’ve got a really good thing going right now, so I haven’t really thought about it.”

The Thunder are expected to go to the wall with Durant, hoping he will agree to a long term deal to stay in OKC and failing that, that he will agree to a short term contract that would being him back next season with a player option for another year after that.

Failing all that, the Thunder could maybe work a sign and trade deal that would give the extra money Durant might want (which only the Thunder can offer) and bring back some assets to Oklahoma City.

Most of that though is fodder for June and July.

As usual the Thunder have been quiet, most of the rumors and talk circulating about OKC is coming from other teams and some player agents.

The Thunder are believed to still be looking for the ever elusive “3 & D” guy. Someone who is a knockdown (or close to it) 3-point shooter plus being a lockdown (or close to it) defensive player.

As the Thunder have demonstrated (by not being able to get one for years) those guys are very difficult to come by. Either you have the shooter (like say Anthony Morrow) or you have the defender (like say Andre Roberson). Combine the two and you’ve found what you’re looking for, otherwise you’re still looking.

Bringing in a quality two-way player could be more expensive than the Thunder can afford with already the second highest payroll and luxury tax bill in the NBA. That’s where the expiring contracts of Augustin and Novak could come into play. Novak’s contract is worth $3.75 million and Augustin is on the books for $3.0 million.

A player who could be in play is Memphis shooting guard Courtney Lee. He’s making $5.675 million this season, has a real plus-minus (combining both offense and defense) of 0.13 (15th among shooting guards in the NBA) and is shooting 45.8 percent overall and 37.0 percent from beyond the arc. His contract is expiring too and Memphis could be in a position (with center Marc Gasol injured and perhaps out for the rest of the season) to start making deals.

Tobias Harris of Orlando is another player who might be available. In fact reports coming out of Orlando indicate Harris and young guard Victor Oladipo are both available but the price could be higher than OKC is willing to go.

The problem with making these deadline deals is while you want to add a player or two who will make you better, at the same time you don’t want to give up a player you need. Chemistry can be a delicate thing and the Thunder, though trailing Golden State and San Antonio in the Western Conference, are still on pace for a 60-win season.  

Normally if you’re in the middle of that type of season, you don’t need to do very much at the trade deadline. But normally if you’re on track to win 60, you’re not sitting in third place in your own conference and Presti could also be looking at this as his last best chance to influence Durant’s pending free agency situation.

In addition those expiring contracts the Thunder could also dangle Morrow, whose contract has a team option for next season at just under $3.5 million. Waiters has also been talked about a lot but he’s proven fairly valuable filling in for the injured Roberson and may even keep that starting spot after Roberson is healthy again. Waiters will be eligible for an extension to his rookie contract next season. Singler’s new contract and up and down performances this season make him unlikely to be moved.

And speaking of up and down performances there’s also been the occasional talk the Thunder might be interested in sending Serge Ibaka (who has at times been dominant and at other times has almost disappeared) somewhere in part of what would be a blockbuster deal. The odds of that happening, especially this season, would seem to be remote and could even be seen by Durant as a desperation move by Presti.

So there you have it, some of the names who might be in play and who might be changing addresses come Thursday afternoon.

But then again, if there’s one thing we’ve learned while the Thunder have been in Oklahoma City it’s to expect the unexpected.

We’ll keep you posted on this page as the rumors roll in and time ticks down toward that 2pm Thursday deadline.