The Oklahoma City Thunder already have the best record in the Western Conference, but that doesn't mean they can't get better. The Thunder have some flaws, and as we near the NBA's trade deadline, it's time to figure out ways to mend them.
Every hypothetical Oklahoma City trade seems to center around Kendrick Perkins. How could all those deals not?
Perkins has two years and $18.1 million left on his oft-criticized contract, and the Thunder, who have neglected to trade, amnesty or even bench a now-unproductive Perk, need to figure out some practical way to move him off the roster.
Realistically, sticking a draft pick to Perkins and letting another team take his 2015-expiring deal could be the best way to rid Oklahoma City of that money. And let's face it: If the Thunder were going to amnesty Perk, they would've done that already.
So Oklahoma City can use the Perkins contract to acquire some reinforcements either on the wing, where the Thunder have struggled to find consistent scoring from anyone whose last name isn't Durant, or in the frontcourt, where they have Steven Adams, Nick Collison and not much else.
On that note, here are six possible trades that could help the Thunder's chances at winning a title in 2014.
Oklahoma City Thunder acquire: Evan Turner ($6.7 million, one year)
Oklahoma City has already expressed some interest in Turner, who would provide legitimate help for the Thunder on the wing.
Don't let Turner's gaudy 17.8 points per game mislead you. He's not a leading man. He probably isn't even a No. 2 player.
But considering Turner's play-making and one-on-one scoring ability, he can be a quality third option, and with Oklahoma City, he would arguably be a fourth or fifth one behind Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson.
A rental for Turner, who becomes a restricted free agent in the offseason, seems like a realistic possibility. Philadelphia is trying to unload as much talent as it can, mainly so it can stock up on draft picks for the cold winter.
The 76ers are tanking. That's all too apparent. And really, they don't care about their cap situation for the 2014 offseason.
That's why the Perkins contract can help. Philly knows it won't contend next year. It wants an expiring deal for 2015, when it may be in a better position to sign some contributing free agents to help the team contend in a weak Eastern Conference.
So Philadelphia gets a pick, a potential rotation player and a 2015-expiring deal for a player it will lose this offseason once his contract expires. As long as the market for Turner doesn't spike, it seems fair on both sides.
Philadelphia 76ers acquire: Kendrick Perkins and a first-round pick
The Thunder obviously couldn't do both 76ers deals, but they could chose one or the other. And a trade for Hawes, which would be slightly more tame than one for Turner, seems like an even more realistic possibility for Oklahoma City.
It's time for Scott Brooks and the Thunder to realize what Perkins has become. By now, he's far from the player he used to be and, at least offensively, he's not providing much for this team. Yet, Brooks continues to play him.
So what do you do to the kid who keeps dangerously eating his Legos when he has a perfectly exciting firetruck to play with instead? You take away his Legos.
Steven Adams deserves to be playing over Perkins. And maybe Brooks should even be going small more often than he does.
Hawes could help with those smaller lineups.
He's a 7-foot center, who is shooting 41 percent from three on almost four attempts a game. He rebounds at a respectable rate. Hawes, who like Turner is a free agent after this season, could help this Thunder team immensely and immediately.
This would likely be a rental. Hawes makes $6.6 million this year and stands to make even more money next season once he hits the open market.
It's possible Hawes could re-sign for a similar amount of money if he were willing to take a potential discount to stay with a winning team. But that's not something the Thunder should expect to happen.
In trading for Hawes or Turner, Oklahoma City would have to assume a worst-case scenario: that either of them would be leaving come free agency. But Hawes would be a rental who could help for 2014, and that's really all a team that has the best record in the West needs.
Oklahoma City Thunder acquire: Arron Afflalo (22.5 million, three years)
This deal depends on a few points falling into place:
• The Magic have to be satisfied with receiving a late first-round pick and not an earlier one.
• The Magic have to be higher on Jeremy Lamb than the average person. Not irrationally high on him. Just a little higher than usual.
• The Magic have to be trying to sell high on Afflalo.
• The Magic have to be committed to Victor Oladipo as a point guard.
Maybe all those bullets aren't true. Orlando doesn't have to trade Afflalo. He does, after all, have two more years on his contract after this season.
But Afflalo is currently in the midst of the best year of his career, and Orlando is still a couple years away from contending. Like Philly, it could use the 2015 cap space that Perkins can provide. And it may be happy acquiring a late first-round pick from Oklahoma City as long as Lamb comes along with it.
After all, if the Magic are planning on eventually trading Afflalo, it might be clever to do it when he's playing at his highest level.
There's a chance Orlando instantly refuses this deal and counters that it wouldn't agree to any swap which doesn't involve Reggie Jackson. Partly, that comes down to how the Magic evaluate rookie guard Victor Oladipo.
If the Magic think Oladipo is a point guard, a position the team has tried him at in his rookie year, then maybe they prefer the shooting guard, Lamb, as his complement. But if the team is set on moving Oladipo off the ball in the future, it's possible someone of Afflalo's stature could command the value that Jackson—and not Lamb—brings.
Houston Rockets acquire: Kendrick Perkins, Perry Jones, and a first-round pick
Oklahoma City Thunder acquire: Omer Asik ($16.7 million, two years)
The Rockets and Thunder have made a major trade before. You can ask James Harden about that one. Now, it might be time for another.
Asik is miserable. So let's make him not so miserable.
Of course, Asik hasn't played since Dec. 2 and has only gotten into 17 games all season, so this trade may be a little more complicated than it appears. But Asik is practicing now, and the rumors are already swirling that he may return soon.
So when Asik comes back, what happens? He was starting at the season's commencement, but came off the bench for nine straight games before injuring his thigh. Blame Dwight Howard or Kevin McHale or Daryl Morey or the whole Houston Rockets system, but Asik is only playing 18.3 minutes per game, and he's better than that.
Houston tried to trade Asik earlier in the season, but couldn't find what it deemed as fair value.
Now, you'd think consistently playing less than half the game would hurt Asik's trade value. You'd think a thigh injury that has kept him out for two months would hurt his value. And you'd think that publicly wanting to get out Houston would hurt his value, as well.
Maybe the Thunder wouldn't have to give up a ton to acquire an athletic center, who wouldn't provide much offensively (though he is a solid pick-and-roll option), but who could anchor a defense that is already one of the best in the NBA.
An Asik-Ibaka frontcourt would be a nightmare for opposing teams to face. If the Thunder have a chance to pair those two together, they have to pull the trigger.
Boston Celtics acquire: Kendrick Perkins and Perry Jones
Oklahoma City Thunder acquire: Kris Humphries ($12 million, one year)
Wouldn't it be great to get Perkins back on the Celtics, if only for nostalgic reasons?
Wait, it wouldn't be? No one thinks that would be great? Well, that's disappointing.
Either way, Perkins returning to Boston (as long as Perry Jones goes with him) could make some practical sense, considering that Humphries's contract expires after this season and that the Celtics will do whatever they can to get something back for him.
Jones could be a piece for the future in Boston, a rotation player who may be able to help down the line. Humphries, meanwhile, has actually become a little overly criticized over the past few years.
Kardashians aside, let's remember that Humphries was coming off two straight seasons averaging a double-double just last year. He can still pull down boards. He can still provide more for a team than someone like Perkins, even if he is becoming an expert at getting posterized.
Humphries wouldn't help the Thunder as much as someone like Hawes, but Oklahoma City likely wouldn't have to give up a draft pick to get him. It's a cheaper, less aggressive plan. But it's still a viable one.
Sacramento Kings acquire: Kendrick Perkins, Perry Jones and a first-round pick
The Sacramento Kings have been in a strange spot since signing Carl Landry, a power forward, and trading for Derrick Williams, a power forward. Shockingly, they have a surplus of power forwards.
Williams is the new guy in the door, the experiment, and the former No. 2 overall pick. Landry, meanwhile, signed a four-year deal in the offseason.
If the Kings are trying to relieve their roster redundancy just a little, trading away one of their power forwards for a young, backup small forward, a position of need for them, could make perfect sense.
Perkins's contract may actually fit well in Sacramento, as well. The Kings have a bunch of money coming off the books in 2015, including Rudy Gay's $19.3 million and Marcus Thornton's $8.6 million. Adding Perkins's $9.4 million 2014-15 salary can help the team clear out loads of cap space for two summers from now.
The Thunder, meanwhile, would get a skilled power forward who is locked into a completely reasonable, long-term deal. Thompson is the exact type of player who can make the leap from under-the-radar afterthought on a bad team to key rotation player on a good one at some point in his career.
All he needs to do that is the environment change, and the Thunder might be smart to give that to him.
Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade, but he maintains that his per-36 minutes numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at RotoWire.com or on ESPN’s TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.
*All statistics current as of Feb. 7.