While it appears to the naked eye that the Oklahoma City Thunder are pretty much stuck with the roster they currently have due to salary cap restraints and not wanting to get into luxury tax territory, looks can be deceiving. We all know that the Thunder would rather make moves than lose people for nothing as evidenced in the Jeff Green and James Harden situations and this season is no exception. When the Thunder were going to lose Kevin Martin to the Minnesota Timberwolves, they shrewdly created a sign and trade situation that allowed them to in essence secure a $6.6million trade exception to be used within 12 months from the deal going ahead.
The same thing occurred when the Thunder sent point guard Eric Maynor to the Portland Trailblazers. That effort secured them a $2.3million trade exception with a 12 month use by date which is approaching rather rapidly. While these two trade exceptions cannot be put together, they are still very valuable assets at Thunder GM Sam Presti’s disposal. We all know that Presti likes to play chess not checkers and these rather insignificant moves show just how astute the Thunder’s front office is.
So much so, that you may not have realised (apart from our terrific coverage here on Thunderous Intentions!) that OKC found a way to become part of the Boston Celtics / Memphis Grizzlies deal and offloaded the contract of Ryan Gomes before they had to guarantee it. This netted the Thunder a couple of picks, some cap space and a couple of roster spots. Not bad dealing considering just how fine a line the Thunder have to walk with their small market squad.
I discussed this with Royce Young from the Daily Thunder over twitter and he linked me to some highlighted scenarios here. Some intriguing options, especially when it comes to the likes of Gary Neal.
So with the trade deadline approaching and the Eric Maynor trade exception soon to expire, smart money is on the Thunder making some kind of move to utilise this. It might not be major, but it will be to the long term benefit of the Thunder and their “sustainable success” franchise model. The loss of Russell Westbrook has really highlighted a couple of glaring deficiencies with the OKC roster. Although they are planning on having everyone back, fully fit and healthy as they line up for a post-season campaign, some insurance in the backcourt and from the perimeter wouldn’t hurt.
The Kevin Martin trade exception still has a long way to go before it expires and this might be something that Presti looks to utilise in the off-season rather than right now. At nearly $7million it has a great deal of value not only to the Thunder but to other teams who may be wanting to acquire such an asset. No doubt Presti already had something in the works when he pushed to acquire it in the deal.
So as we sit here during the Westbrook-less stage of the season, let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture. The Thunder have already brought in Royal Ivey on a 10-day contract (and he may very well see another one after the initial one), they have identified some key areas of focus and are going about making this period as successful as possible. It’s not in the Thunder’s culture to “just get through” this part of the season without Russ, they are looking at turning the negative into a positive.
We might not know what is next, but I can guarantee you that Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder do – and it is bound to be brilliant.