Evaluating the future opportunities
The Oklahoma City Thunder entered Trade Deadline week expecting to have a solid amount of cap space next summer. They then proceeded to move off of $7.23 million of Micic's salary, $5.25 million of Davis Bertans' salary and $4.9 million of Tre Mann's salary. Add it all up, and the Thunder cleared $17.38 million off of the books ahead of this offseason.
Gordon Hayward is on an expiring deal, giving the Thunder a ton of flexibility for this summer. They could easily operate with $35 million in cap space, allowing them to add multiple rotation players or take a big swing at a near-max star; they would also be a minor move away from opening up enough space to sign a max free agent or be in position to execute a sign-and-trade.
They also have the option of bringing Hayward back if he does turn out to be a great fit. He will surely command a much lower salary than this year's $31.5 million. Would he return for a two-year, $30 million deal with the second year partially-guaranteed?
There's one final door that the Thunder could open, and that's using him as a sign-and-trade salary chip to bring in another player. Two years ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers re-signed Collin Sexton to a new contract that allowed him to serve as matching salary in the Donovan Mitchell deal. The Thunder could do the same, using cap space to sign other players and then using Hayward in a deal. It's a less likely path to take, but it's part of the greater flexibility moving forward they now have by moving off of the salaries of Mann, Micic and Bertans.
That future flexibility should be weighed against the value of those three players to the Thunder. Bertans was not playing and around simply to facillitate a trade. Tre Mann could take a step forward, but to this point was nothing more than a longshot to be a rotation player on a good team. Micic is a steady hand as a backup point guard, but the Thunder already have better options in-house.
The Thunder gave up shockingly little future value (the two second-round picks need to be mentioned, but the Thunder had 21 to work with this week and a stocked roster, so their value to OKC was low). In return, they got an inside track on re-signing a veteran contributor or singificantly more cap space this summer. That was an excellent tradeoff.
The Thunder got a player who can help now and is a great fit in their rotation. They did so by giving up paltry draft assets and three players outside of their rotation. In the process, they opened up another $17 million in cap space next summer to have even more flexibility to add to the team, potentially with a star-level swing.
Was there another trade that would have been better? Perhaps, but it's not clear what that deal would have been. This was about as good of a deadline as they could have had.