The Thunder made a trade that left an already packed frontcourt more overloaded.
Armed with around $1.74 million in remaining cap room, the Thunder traded a pair of 2017 second round picks to the Denver nuggets in exchange for big man Joffrey Lauvergne. One of those picks will be the Thunder’s own selection. The other was acquired from Memphis in 2013 in exchange for shipping veteran Ryan Gomes to Boston and help facilitate a trade of Jerryd Bayless and Courtney Lee.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti looks for certain aspects when making potential long-term acquisitions, and Lauvergne checks several boxes. Lauvergne turns 25 years old at the end of September. He’s entering his third NBA season on a value contract – $1.7 million this season. He’s eligible for restricted free agency after the season.
Lauvergne signed with Denver midway through the 2014-15 season and has played in 83 career NBA games, with averages of 6.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. He shot an impressive 89.9% from the free throw line last season. He also showed signs of becoming a decent three point threat. He shot 34.3% from deep in 34 games prior to the All-Star break, but all but abandoned the shot after the break. It’s a skill the Thunder may encourage him to develop.
He had an impressive 13-game stretch in December of last season when he averaged 10 points and 6.3 rebounds in 20 minutes per night. But as Zach Mikash of SBNation’s Denver Nuggets affiliate wrote, Lauvergne was a liability on defense for most of the season. It’s an aspect Lauvergne must improve upon in order to earn playing time in Oklahoma City.
Lauvergne played for the France national team in the Rio Olympics, averaging 9.1 points and 3.8 rebounds while shooting 57.3% from the field.
Lauvergne joins a Thunder front court that already included Ersan Ilyasova, Domantas Sabonis, Nick Collison, Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, and Mitch McGary. Given the Thunder’s needs for additional wing help, it seems logical to conclude that the trade for Lauvergne wasn’t made in a vacuum. With a month to go before the Thunder opens training camp, there’s plenty of time to tweak the roster further. While McGary has long been pegged as the odd man out, don’t discount the possibility of deals involving Ilyasova or Kanter.