The trade deadline is approaching, so the Oklahoma City Thunder should go out and make a move to cement their status as Western Conference favorites, right?
General manager Sam Presti has to be ecstatic about the state of his team right now, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas in need of improvement. To that end, here are the Thunder’s biggest needs as the trade clock ticks down to double zeroes.
Before we get to the needs, let me just preface by making it absolutely clear that the Thunder don’t need to make a move. OKC is the best team in the conference and they’ve only had Russell Westbrook’s services for 25 games.
Kevin Durant is carrying this team like we never thought was possible, and everybody else is picking up the slack. But if the Thunder are serious about winning the championship, here are the two things they could stand to add: Three-point shooting and low-post defense.
This will always be a need on a team with two devastating isolation scorers. Excellent three-point shooting prevents teams from double-teaming the Thunderous duo (Durant and Westbrook) and creates the floor spacing that opens up driving lanes.
The Thunder have been fine beyond the arc and rank 15th in the league while shooting at a 35.4 percent clip.
But that can be improved.
When OKC rolled into South Beach and punked the Miami Heat, it was largely due to the three-point heroics of Jeremy Lamb and Derek Fisher who combined for 33 points (27 of which came from beyond the arc).
It’s all well and good that the Thunder demolished the Heat, but that kind of shooting performance isn’t going to happen very often.
Jeremy Lamb has started to cool down from his hot start to the season, and Durant is the only player on the roster shooting higher than 40 percent from downtown.
OKC is especially hurt by the dreadful shooting of Thabo Sefolosha, who was actually shooting better than 40 percent in his last two seasons. The reasons for his extended cold streak are unclear (perhaps the absence of shot-creator extraordinaire Russell Westbrook?), but it hurts the team if the best perimeter defender can’t buy a bucket from deep.
The Thunder don’t have elite size, and that’s alright. For now.
They have the requisite size to make it through the Western Conference, even against a bigger team like the Memphis Grizzlies.
But what happens if they make it through the playoffs and it’s not the Miami Heat waiting for them in the NBA Finals, but the Indiana Pacers?
Sure, the Thunder dispatched the Pacers with ease when they met earlier this season, but Indiana was playing a back-to-back and that game was their fifth road game in seven days.
We don’t quite know, but it wouldn’t hurt to add another big body not named Hasheem Thabeet.
At the end of the day, while it would be nice to fill the aforementioned roles, who or what can the Thunder afford to trade? Every piece of the rotation is clicking on all cylinders at the moment, and it wouldn’t be worthwhile to break up that chemistry.
In addition, all the young players (Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Steven Adams and Perry Jones) have all shown tremendous improvement and potential, so the Thunder should stick to their guns and let them fully develop.
OKC does have (maybe) the first-round pick of the Dallas Mavericks (top-20 protected) to use as a trade chip which could generate some interest.
But given the value of a first-round pick in this year’s loaded draft class and OKC’s penchant for nailing the draft (and developing talent), the Thunder would be best served to hold on to that pick.
With every falling into place for the Thunder to make a run, they don’t need to make a rushed trade at the deadline. There’s no need to shuffle the cards when they have the best hand on the table.