OKC makes splash trading for George
After the Oklahoma City Thunder saw their second player in 10-years win the Most Valuable Player award, they shook up the NBA even more.
A year ago at this time, Oklahoma City was mourning the loss of superstar Kevin Durant; A fanbase full of hate, sadness, and gloom filled social media and the streets of Oklahoma to curse the name of Kevin Durant and send his memorabilia up in flames. Fast forward a year later: Fans now take to social media to rejoice as news came down late Friday night before the Fourth of July holiday that their beloved professional basketball team has acquired yet another star: Paul George.
A trade that surprised, well, everyone. We all heard the Paul George to Boston, or even Cleveland rumors, but never Oklahoma City. In a world filled with leaks, and insiders this one slipped through the cracks and was a refreshing surprise not spoiled by amazing reporters who do their job like it has never been done before getting trade information hours before it comes to be.
So what did Oklahoma City have to give up to make this all possible? Frankly, not that much. To add the 4-time all star the Thunder had to give up: 25-year-old shooting guard Victor Oladipo, and 21-year old big man Domantas Sabonis.
At first glance it looks like the Thunder pulled off highway robbery. You lose 20-points-per-game combined, no picks, and gain a 3-time all-NBA player, 3-times being on the all-defense team, and a single guy averaging more points (23-per-game) than the two player you departed with combined. But here is why Oklahoma City fans should not be over the moon just yet:
Paul George and Russell Westbrook teaming up sounds fun, and exciting--and for 82-games, it will be!--However, that tandem is not going to win an NBA championship this year. That pairing likely will not even get the Thunder to a wester conference finals. So trading a promise, young, developing big man, and a 24-year old shooting guard that was a number 2 overall pick just a few years ago, for a season at most of Paul George that will likely improve you by only a round in the playoffs from where you were a year ago is not the best trade ever. Especially when Oklahoma City's biggest issue a year ago was depth. Couple that with the loss of Cam Payne last season at the deadline, the injury ridden (promising) point guard was shipped to Chicago for a Taj Gibson rental. A lot of nice role players have been lost over the last 6-months, and they do not have the best cap situation to try and fill those holes.
Oklahoma City hosts 4-of-the-top-40 highest paid NBA players. They are third in team pay roll for the 2017-18 season before free agency even begins! Despite that, there is still a lot of speculation surrounding moves still to come.
Here is the plus side for Oklahoma City, leverage:
While all my previous statements are true, Sam Presti and Oklahoma City can turn this trade into a solidified win in a blink of an eye.
They could clear cap and go after a Zach Randolph, and Rudy Gay, in free agency.
The first way to do that would be: Russell Westbrook's possible extension. Depending on how other free agents shake out, and how a possible extension would lay out in terms of loaded money on a new deal that could bring Westbrook down from being the third highest paid player this season. Instead of paying him a lot now, could they work the numbers and defer those payments to future seasons? Can they find a way to dump Enes Kanter's contract? A six man of the year candidate, a good teammate, but not a player worth giving 17-million dollars to. If Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti is able to wiggle the cap space and sign the players rumored to be interested in OKC, this trade could take on a different feeling entirely. Going from a moot-point, and a trade made to lose in the second round of the playoffs instead of the first, to making Oklahoma City a legitimate contender bringing in depth like Rudy Gay, and a starter in Zach Randolph.
Another way they could completely make it undeniable fact that they won this trade:
Trading Paul George. Much like a bad HDTV show Sam Presti could flip Paul George for something more team friendly at the deadline. As the NBA would then be coming up on the playoffs and teams get desperate, what would a Boston or Cleveland give up for George? Depth players plus a pick, or two? recouping the Thunder a 2018 first rounder?
The trade right now seems like a steal, and it is easy to get excited about this, but take a step back. The best thing about this trade? The Thunder control their own destiny. They do not have to bank on this or that panning out, they call the shots as I previously laid out. This is only the beginning on a wild, crazy, and fun NBA offseason.