Thunder Trade For Denver Center, More Moves Coming

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

The Thunder’s endless summer of deals continued Tuesday when GM Sam Presti sent two 2017 2nd round draft picks to the Denver Nuggets for 6-11 center/power forward Joffrey Lauvergne. The picks are the Thunder’s own and one they acquired from Memphis.

This move will automatically trigger at least one more because the Thunder now have 16 players under guaranteed contracts and the NBA permits only 15. Teams can carry up to 20 players through training camp but have to be down to 15 by the start of the regular season.

Lauvergne is another young big, he won’t be 25 until the end of September, until a very cap friendly contract. He’s scheduled to make just $1.7 million this coming season and the Thunder are on the hook for just half that until regular season starts. He’ll be a restricted free agent next summer.

He’s been mostly a backup center in Denver the last two seasons, but 15 of his 16 career starts came last season when he averaged 7.9 points on 51.3 percent shooting while pulling down 4.9 rebounds. He averaged just under 18 minutes playing time per game.

He most recently played for his native France in the Olympics, where he averaged 9.8 points and 4.2 rebounds. The French team was 3-3 in Rio and did not win a medal. Lauvergne helped France to a bronze medal in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. He averaged 9.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in those games.

He’s an excellent free throw shooter hitting 62 of his 69 attempts (89.9 percent) last season and has also been outstanding finishing at the rim where he shot 64.3 percent. A little further out (3-to-10 feet) his percentage dropped to 48.9 percent. Mid-range jumpers (10-to-16 feet) seem to be a struggle, he hit just 35 percent of those shots last season but on out closer to the arc he hit slightly more than half (50.8 percent) of his shots. Beyond the arc his numbers plummet to 24.5 percent.

According to Basketball-Reference.com 77 percent of Lauvergne’s career minutes have been logged at the center position and 23 percent at power forward. The Thunder already had plenty of guys at both spots with Steven Adams as the incumbent starting center and Enes Kanter his backup. Then Ersan Ilyasova the likely starter at power forward with backups Domantas Sabonis, Nick Collison and Mitch McGary.

McGary, Ilyasova and Kanter have each been involved in trade speculation. McGary has shown flashes but he’s mostly been disappointing especially when it comes to off-court issues. McGary is suspended for the first five games of the regular season for violating the league’s drug policy.

This is believed to be McGary’s third violation, all involving marijuana so he is probably the most likely to be shipped out.

The Thunder have a lot of big men and a lot of guards but Kyle Singler and Josh Huestis are the only small forwards listed on the roster.

Presti may be working toward a package deal to bring in a scoring wing. The only thing certain at this point is another move is coming.