OKLAHOMA CITY — The Toronto Raptors could not enjoy being the center of the basketball universe for even 48 hours. You can thank Rob Pelinka and the Los Angeles Lakers for that.
That trade that sent Anthony Davis to the Lakers was the trumpet that signaled the death of the 2018-19 season. 2019-20 NBA is upon us.
The Golden State Warriors find themselves looking at Kevin Durant potentially leaving and a year-long recovery for Klay Thompson. Kawhi Leonard’s uncertain future is another potential league-altering factor. The league hasn’t been this open in a few years. The NBA hasn’t been this open in a few years.
This is the environment that the Oklahoma City Thunder operate in.
You know about OKC’s financial up-hill battle. $138.8 million in guaranteed money for next season. The Thunder will not have much flexibility in free agency as it stands.
The Thunder do have a $10.8 million trade exception from the Carmelo Anthony trade that expires July 25th. They also possess a tax-payer’s mid-level exception with $4.4 million remaining — the same exception they used roughly $1 million to help sign Hamidou Diallo back in July.
But does Oklahoma City have the ability to add impactful pieces? With Sam Presti, anything is possible — something will more than likely happen.
Why you ask? History shows that Presti is one of the more aggressive general managers in the game. Presti’s language at his exit interview gave the impression that OKC may return with the same group. But Presti has said one thing and done something completely different in the past. “Internal development” turning into Victor Oladipo/Domantas Sabonis for Paul George comes to mind.
2019 free agency will be wild. After the initial wave hits, players not thought to be available may find themselves on the trading block. Some players who weren’t gobbled up in that first wave may be more inclined to take cheaper deals than they initially desired. That is where the Thunder could find success.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported last week that the Thunder may be interested in trading their 21st pick in this Thursday’s draft. To reiterate, OKC cannot trade the pick due to the Stepien Rule, but can agree to a trade and draft a player another team desires.
There is always the potential that a foolish front office will trade a high-end level player to the Thunder for little in return. Orlando’s questionable philosophy of stock-piling bigs in 2016 and giving up Sabonis/Oladipo for another big in Serge Ibaka anyone?
More than likely, if OKC moves their 21st pick, the trade will not move the needle for the roster and fans. Likely it will be to set up more flexibility for a future move down the line.
The February trade deadline becomes more interesting if the Thunder have rid themselves of another guaranteed contract in a rookie. That potential deal packaged with a player like Patrick Patterson or a higher-end player like Dennis Schröder could increase flexibility for a move later on.
A lot of hypotheticals, yes. But that’s the bed OKC has made. Now they must lie in it — or in this case, figure out ways to get new sheets.
Brady Trantham has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder for The Franchise since April 2018 and for Thunder Digest since 2016. He hosts a Thunder podcast with Madysson Morris “OKC-82 Podcast” which can be found on all podcast outlets, and is a featured co-host on the Franchise Thunder Insider’s Show on Saturdays from 10-12, in addition to weekly guest spots on “The Franchise Drive” on Tuesdays and “The Franchise Morning Show” on Wednesdays. Follow him on Twitter @BradyDoesSports