The Oklahoma City Thunder don’t have many holes in their roster. They currently have the second best record in the NBA with the most efficient offense and seventh best defense.
The NBA trade deadline is coming up right after the All-Star Break on Feb. 21. The Thunder don’t have to make any moves but one Thunder beat writer suggests they go after a big man in Phoenix.
[Jermaine] O’Neal, 34, is at the tail end of his career. But he still could be a fantastic fit for the rest of the year. Now in his 17th season, O’Neal is averaging 6.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots in 16 minutes per game. He could slide right in behind Kendrick Perkins as the backup center and be an immediate upgrade over the incumbent Hasheem Thabeet, who’s averaging just 4 1/2 minutes fewer than O’Neal.
Most importantly, O’Neal wouldn’t ruin the future financial state of the franchise, or force the Thunder to part with one or more of its promising young players — two things OKC refuses to even entertain. O’Neal is making the veteran minimum, or roughly $1.35 million. But only about $850,000 of that is paid for by the Suns and therefore used for trading purposes (the league reimburses a fixed amount to teams signing veterans like O’Neal to one-year deals). It all leads to the perfect proposition for OKC. O’Neal is making minimal money, on an expiring contract and still has talent in the tank.
At first glance, O’Neal doesn’t jump out as someone who would dramatically make the Thunder better. Thabeet has had some good moments this season and upgrading him to O’Neal won’t account for much.
Head coach Scott Brooks loves Kendrick Perkins too so acquiring O’Neal wouldn’t mean something like having a new crunch time center. The Thunder go small a lot at the end of games anyway with Kevin Durant at the four and either Perkins, Serge Ibaka or Nick Collison at the five.
The Thunder would have to trade Eric Maynor to the Suns to make this deal possible. Whether or not the Suns would accept, would the Thunder really want to get rid of Maynor to upgrade their backup center position?
Maynor will become a restricted free agent this summer and likely this is his last season with the Thunder. He lost the backup point guard job to second-year man Reggie Jackson in December too.
But Maynor still could have some value to this team. It’s a valuable thing to have good depth at the backup point guard position and Maynor still remains the best passer on this Thunder roster. The Thunder would probably rather be deeper at point guard than center right now.
The best thing that Mayberry suggests in this hypothetical trade is the Thunder trying to get P.J. Tucker in this trade as well.
The real lack of depth on the Thunder roster right now is with defensive-minded wings. If OKC gets to the NBA Finals again and finds the Miami Heat waiting for them, only Kevin Durant and Thabo Sefolosha can even try to defend LeBron James.
Tucker is someone the Thunder could throw on him. He’s one of the best energy guys in the league right now and actually makes it pretty unlikely that the Suns would unload him for basically nothing.
The Thunder will take on the Suns tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena at 8 p.m. EST.