Oklahoma City Thunder: Ten Options to Prepare For Playoff Push
Last season, the Thunder increased their win total from 23 to 50.
They then pushed the eventual champion Lakers to six games and came within seconds of forcing a game seven. This year the Thunder are right in the thick of the playoff race and, as of today, currently sitting fourth, three games behind the Lakers.
Last year, the Thunder stood pat at the deadline. Sam Presti sometimes tends to make his deals in the offseason during the draft as he traded for the rights to Jeff Green and Cole Aldrich in past drafts. With so much more expected of the Thunder this time around during the playoffs there are a few moves they could make which would help them to reach the lofty expectations placed upon them.
Tayshaun Prince seems to have soured with his current team, the Detroit Pistons.
He has won a championship with the team and has also seen them enter the lottery. He would provide another strong defender to switch on and off with Thabo Sefolosha and would give the Thunder two perimeter defenders.
Prince is a solid all-around player with averages of 14.8ppg and 4.8rpg. Prince's $11 million salary would come off the books at the end of the season which would give the team a little flexability.
The deal itself would depend on what the Pistons wanted back in return. If the team was looking for expiring deals, the Thunder could package Morris Peterson, Daequan Cook and Royal Ivey and a draft pick to offer Detroit, and if they wanted younger talent back then D.J. White, Byron Mullens, Royal Ivey and Morris Peterson along with a pick could be created.
As with Tayshaun Prince, Shane Battier would give the Thunder a solid veteran perimeter defender with some playoff experience.
The price for Battier would not be as high as Prince and the Rockets have let it be known that they are seeking a center, and you would have to think they would ask for Aldrich or Mullens. The Thunder would be more likely to surrender Mullens to complete a deal.
A deal would most likely include Morris Peterson and Byron Mullens and a combination of Cook, Ivey, White and a pick as the final pieces to the deal.
A deal that is a longshot, but would be most beneficially for the Thunder, would be a trade for the Buck's Andrew Bogut.
The Thunder have long lacked a dominant center and Bogut would fill that void. The emergence of Serge Ibaka has help the front court rebounding and defense but Bogut is averaging 13.5ppg, 11.5rpg and 2.9bpg.
Salary wise the deal could get done with a deal that sent Jeff Green and James Harden to Milwaukee for Bogut. On top of the players, it is most likely that the Thunder would have to include at least this year's or next year's pick as well as the Clippers 2012 first round pick from the Eric Bledsoe deal.
Nenad Krstic could also find his way into the deal as well as an expiring contract if the Thunder can convince the Bucks to accept only Jeff Green or James Harden.
The Thunder desperately need some scoring off the bench and former Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford fits the bill.
He has an expiring deal and has expressed his unhappiness with being in Atlanta. He can score in bunches and holds the honor of being only the fourth player in NBA history to score fifty or more points with three different teams.
There have been questions about his attitude, but on a team with lead by example players like Westbrook and Durant his attitude should not be a problem.
Atlanta would most likely accept expiring deals as they are over the cap and seeking some relief from the burden that Joe Johnson and Al Horford's recent deals will have on their cap number for the next six seasons.
Daequan Cook could be a piece and could step in and fill Crawford's role off the bench. Morris Peterson, Cook, a pick and D.J. White would be the most basic package that would allow the deal to be completed.
Larry Hughes, Michael Finley, Jerry Stackhouse
There are still some wing players available who are currently free agents. Jerry Stackhouse and Michael Finley could be brought into provide more leadership for a young team. Stackhouse could provide more scoring than Finley as he averaged 7.3ppg in Milwaukee's first round series last year.
Larry Hughes is younger than both Finley and Stackhouse at age 32 and played in the playoffs last year with the Bobcats and averaged 6.0ppg. Neither player if brought in would be expected to play a dominant role, but they would provide invaluable insight to younger players and could provide depth on the bench.
Josh Smith would be a longshot for the Thunder to acquire, but if brought in he would be an upgrade over Jeff Green.
Smith puts up better numbers than Green across the board and is a more complete defender. Smith is better suited to match up against power forwards where Green is more suited to play the small forward spot and matches up with wing players on the defensive end.
The deal would have to include Green as well as James Harden. By sending Green and Harden the Thunder would actually end up saving money in the long term as Smith is owed $36 million over the next three years and Green is likely to command at least nine or ten million for the next five years.
Harden would be close to the same if he is offered an extension after his rookie deal is up. If the Thunder have both Jamal Crawford and Josh Smith on their radar then a blockbuster of Green, Harden, picks, Peterson, Cook and White could be offered for the two.
With the Thunder needing three point shooting, the Cav's Anthony Parker could be viewed as an option for the playoff run.
He averages close to 9ppg but he is a 40 percent three pointer shooting, something the Thunder desperately need. He has an expiring deal and the Thunder could offer young prospects such as White and Mullens, or if Parker is packaged with Jamario Moon then the Thunder could send Morris Peterson and possibly a pick to a Cavs team interested in stockpiling picks for the rebuilding process.
As with Bogut and Smith, Nene is a dream for the Thunder, but it could be a possibility if Carmelo Anthony is dealt and the Nuggets deal Chauncey Billups as well.
As with Smith and Bogut, at least a package of Green and or Harden would be sent to Denver with fillers of Krstic, Mullens, Peterson and White. The deal would give the Thunder a solid frontcourt scorer and rugged rebounder.
Nene leads the NBA in field goal percentage and has a deal that expires after next season. The major problem for this deal would be that would Oklahoma City and Denver want to send key players to in division teams. If they agree then each team would get talented players to fit immediate needs.
The talented but troubled Andray Blatche could be shopped by the Wizards at the deadline.
His time in Washington could be coming to an end after arrests, attitude problems and and altercation with teammate JaVale McGee.
Blatche would be an immediate contributor on the front line for Scott Brooks as he averages 15.8 ppg and 8.1 rpg. His deal is very cap friendly as he is under contract until 2014-2015 at an average salary of $7 million per.
A deal for Blatche could go two different ways. If the Wizards are interested in talent in return, then we would have to believe Jeff Green would be a player to be sent back. If Green is part of a deal then you would have to believe that the Thunder would also ask for a pick in return as Green would be seen as more as a "stable" player and has a higher ceiling than Blatche.
If the Wizards are just seeking cap relief and picks, then the Thunder could offer a young player such as White or Mullens and a draft pick.
Kirk Hinrich's name has been in trade rumors for the last two deadlines and this year will not be an exception. He has been linked to the Lakers most recently.
Hinrich is a player who can play both point and shooting guard, which would allow Coach Brooks flexibility in his rotation, and he is an above average defender. He is a more than capable three pointer and is a former Kansas teammate of Nick Collison.
He is owed $17 million over this season and next. If Hinrich is acquired by himself, then expiring deals or younger players and a pick could be sent to Washington. If he is acquired in a bigger deal with Andray Blatche then Jeff Green/James Harden, Morris Peterson and Royal Ivey/Byron Mullens and a pick would be the cap friendly version of a deal that would work.