Sam Presti has constantly reshuffled the cards to reorganize the OKC Thunder roster but heading into camp further cuts need to be made.
In the brief offseason that began on November 20th, OKC Thunder head man, Sam Presti has aggressively delivered on his reposition and replenish mandate. The executive appears to be especially serious about the latter portion of his R and R mantra. Four-fifths of the lineup that started last season is gone as are the sixth and seventh men.
Anyone who thought Presti wasn’t committed to the rebuild got the message loud and clear late November 21st when Steven Adams was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans.
In case you missed the whirlwind of action take a gander at the players who began the 2019-20 season and are no longer with the team:
- Chris Paul – traded to Suns
- Dennis Schroder – traded to Lakers
- Terrance Ferguson – traded to 76ers
- Danilo Gallinari – signed with Hawks
- Steven Adams – traded to Pelicans
- Abdel Nader – traded to Suns
- Andre Roberson – free agent (still unsigned)
- Nerlens Noel – signed with Knicks
- Deonte Burton – team declined his option
- Kevin Hervey – signed with Lokomotiv Kuban squad of the VTB League
- Devon Hall – signed with Brose Bamberg in Germany
For those counting that’s 11 of the 17 players off the roster. Six players remain from the 2019-20 club of last season. That includes the young quartet of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort, Darius Bazley, and Hamidou Diallo.
The other two members are Mike Muscala who opted into his final contract year and youngster Isaiah Roby who was picked up in the of Justin Patton late last January. Roby spent the majority of his tenure with the OKC Blue appearing in just three varsity games and missing the Orlando bubble to address an injury.
In addition, Presti has worked his magic to immediately flip assets obtained in trades for Schroder, and Paul and no doubt is still working the phones to send out some other vets recently added.
The Thunder magician has been so adept at his job he’s already into third iterations of player deals. For example, Ricky Rubio who was part of the Suns’ package for Chris Paul was flipped to the Timberwolves. As part of the return package from Minnesota for Rubio, James Johnson was included and he was expeditiously packaged and sent to the Mavericks.
Additionally, Danny Green was sent to the 76ers (although the deal can’t be consummated until December 8th), Kelly Oubre was re-routed to the Warriors and Jalen Lecque sent to the Pacers. That’s three of the four players received from the Suns and only Ty Jerome remains with OKC (at least for now).
OKC Thunder training camp roster a work in progress
Mark Daigneault will have numerous players to consider in camp and that list could change several times between now and the first day the team meets. At the moment even with deals yet to be finalized the Thunder roster is sitting well over the 20 players the club can bring into camp this week.
Aside from the six returnees, two draft prospects will definitely be on the squad as Aleksej Pokusevski and *Theo Maledon (see caveat) will be given a shot to expedite their growth and development. Vic Krejci won’t join the club, having suffered a torn ACL, nor will he count toward the roster total. Moses Brown and Josh Hall were signed to the two-way contract openings.
Admiral Schofield, T.J. Leaf, Justin Jackson, Frank Jackson, and Ty Jerome were obtained in trades and figure to be in camp and on the team.
This next segment of the roster is where the shifts are likely to take place either via trades, being waived or because of timing.
Fluid portion of the roster:
Omer Yurtseven was signed to an Exhibit 10 contract and is not likely to make the final cut, but could possibly get an invite to play for the OKC Blue. Although the entire purpose for giving an Exhibit 10 is to take a look at a player if Presti can’t get the roster trimmed to 20 prior to the first day everyone is in camp Yurtseven will be an easy cut from the list.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Al Horford, who will be afforded a similar opportunity that Chris Paul had last season. His current contract is considered one of the most unsavory deals in the NBA making it virtually unmovable.
If Horford can apply his Swiss Army knife skill set and deliver those off the stat sheet intricacies he delivered for the Boston Celtics, then he could make himself a coveted player once again. It’s unlikely any trades will occur for the big man this season, but with so many youngsters the Thunder can afford his salary and his leadership will be invaluable.
Tying into the Horford deal is Vincent Poirier who the Thunder picked up in a trade with the Celtics. The big man is rumored to be headed to the 76ers as part of the above trade while Jaylen Horde of the Blazers is earmarked for OKC (see caveat).
Veterans with value who were obtained in trades will presumably be prioritized to move. At the top of that list is George Hill and Trevor Ariza. The goal will be to send them to a team that is willing to send back draft picks. No doubt, Sam Presti is actively trying to make that happen because their stature dictates holding a roster spot open. George Hill’s wife dropped an Instagram post of the vet headed to OKC on Sunday. So unless Presti makes a late Monday deal expect him and Ariza to be in camp.
In addition to Hill, four players were part of the Steven Adams deal and figure to be the main group who’ll be waived or cut prior to camp. Of those Darius Miller has the most experience while the trio of Kenrich Williams, Zylan Cheatham, and Josh Gray are the most susceptible.
The caveats and exceptions:
The mainstream French media has been keeping us apprised of rumors or trades concerning French players including Poirier and Jayen Hoard. As noted, Poirier was traded to OKC but will land in Philly as part of the Horford trade which L’Express confirmed. Horde ties into the same trade but isn’t ever likely to don a Thunder jersey.
The Horford deal cannot be finalized until December 8th because the trade cannot become official due to aggregation restrictions on Green (and Poirier for that matter). That’s why the Theo Maledon and Horde portion of the equation also can’t be finalized until that point.
It’s a strange situation because Danny Green, Terrance Ferguson, and Vincent Poirier are technically on the OKC Thunder roster while Horford, Theo Maledon are technically 76ers. Those players will shift sides on the 8th when the deal can be completed and Horde will be cut immediately.
That still leaves the team over the 20 player allotment. The ideal scenario would’ve been for Hill and Ariza to be traded for picks. That would accomplish two goals; allowing for open roster spots for the youngsters to compete to win. And the obvious of continuing to pad the ever-growing Presti pick closet.
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The bottom line is there are more players on the sheet than there are roster spots and that means some slashing needs to occur prior to Tuesday. The obvious first cuts will be from the quartet of Pelicans not named Hill while the other option is Yurtseven.
Our best guess for the 20 who’ll arrive in camp is the following:
- Gilgeous-Alexander, Dort, Bazley, Diallo, Muscala, Roby (returning players)
- Brown, Hall (two-way contracts)
- Pokusevski (draft)
- Hill, Ariza (vets who’ll continue to be shopped)
- Schofield, Leaf, F. Jackson, J. Jackson, Jerome
- *Green, Ferguson, Poirier (outgoing on Dec 8th – replaced by Horford/Maledon/Horde incoming)
- **ONE of Miller, Williams, Cheatham, Gray, or Yurtseven.
*of note: this trio will not be in camp but have to technically be accounted for on the roster until the trade is fully conveyed.
**based on the team having to trim to 20 this group will be the first to be felled by the ax. If there is a loophole for how the team accounts for players who are exiting in trades Presti may be able to keep more of the Pelicans’ group initially but would have to make cuts by the 8th when the Horford deal is completed or make additional trades to make room.
It should be noted the Pelcians group of youngsters aren’t that young. Miller is 30, Gray is 27, while Williams and Cheatham are 25. Miller is the only one of the group who has spent any significant time on an NBA court. If the mandate from Presti and the OKC Thunder is to take a look at young talents that may present more of an opportunity for Yurtseven who is 22. But again this is more of an audition for the Blue who could still have a look at him despite what happens at the varsity camp.
We should get confirmation later today on the initial 20 person training camp roster.