With the trade deadline a couple days away, the Thunder have just completed a deal with the New Orleans Hornets. The proposed deal has Oklahoma City sending forwards Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox and the rights to DeVon Hardin to New Orleans for center Tyson Chandler.
To many in the NBA, this deal probably doesn't make sense for the Hornets. They are losing a dominant force in their interior and gaining two of the Thunder's seldom used bench players. The reason the Hornets will complete this deal, despite their coach wanting to keep the 7'1" center, is to put them under the salary cap after this season.
Chris Wilcox and Joe Smith weren't used to their full potential by the Thunder's staff this season. Wilcox has shown that he can be a force in the interior. In the two seasons before the move to OKC, Wilcox was averaging over 13 PTS and 7 REB per game.
This year Jeff Green has established himself as a more reliable power forward as Wilcox saw himself move further down the depth chart.
Joe Smith, on the other hand, was acquired to be a veteran presence on the Thunder's bench this season. While he wasn't acquired to be a primary scorer, he was supposed to shore up Oklahoma City's young defense, but he proved inconsistent at best.
Why does New Orleans see the need to acquire these two power forwards? Two words: expiring contracts. After this season, these contracts come off the Hornets' books and should put them under the luxury tax cap.
What is Oklahoma City gaining from this trade? A shot-changing, rebounding machine that the Thunder have been lacking. Sure, Nenad has helped the Thunder's defense, but he has admitted that defense isn't living up to the coaching staff's expectations.
If Chandler can come back from his ankle injury, then this trade could help OKC in a number of ways.
They are not forced to use their first pick on Blake Griffin. Before you force me to delete everything I have ever written, let me explain my thoughts. Griffin is a power forward. Have you looked at who the Thunder have at power forward? Jeff Green, a candidate for Most Improved Player this year, and Nick Collison, who can move back to his true position after this deal.
These two players form a strong core at the position. Would it be nice to have Blake? Of course it would be. This trade will make not getting him bearable to the Thunder faithful.
Oklahoma City can use their first pick to get a sharp shooter at the two. Kyle Weaver is a great player, one of my favorite on OKC actually, but he is a role player, as I said in my last article. If the Thunder can get James Harden, then they could have another scoring threat to pull defenders off Durant.
This deal is beneficial to both teams, but in the long run it is the Thunder who have gained the most. The Thunder's front office never ceases to amaze me at what they are capable of.