Grade the Trade: Thunder finally land All-Star center in potent new 3-team pitch

The Oklahoma City Thunder are looking around the league at bigs, and this trade would bring an All-Star center to lock down the paint.
Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers and Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers and Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages
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Should the Thunder make this trade?

There are two primary questions to ask when evaluating this deal. The first is whether the Thunder should be trading for a non-shooting big man at all, compromising their five-out system and pushing Chet Holmgren to power forward.

It's a difficult question to answer, as both sides of the equation come with strengths and weaknesses -- likely improvements on defense and rebounding in exchange for some reduced offensive efficiency.

Assuming the answer to that first question is yes, the second question is whether this trade itself is the right way to pursue help at center.

Jarrett Allen is a perennial All-Defense candidate, a high-level shot-blocker and paint protector who has the foot speed to switch onto the perimeter at times; he's not Bam Adebayo locking down anyone he wants at the 3-point line, but he's also not Brook Lopez or Kristaps Porzingis needing to stay in the paint.

Allen is also an excellent lob finisher, and while Josh Giddey won't be around to throw them, he will eat as defenses try to step up against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's drives into the paint, opening up space for Allen to go up and get a dunk. He has underrated craft around the basket as well -- someone like Jakob Poeltl can catch a lob but can't finish in traffic, but Allen has no problem shouldering into a defender and using his soft touch to feather in a layup or flip a shot over the rim.

Allen is also on a bargain contract, making just $20 million per season for the next two years. At that point, if the two-big alignment is working, the Thunder can work out a long-term deal that fits in with the rising salaries of their young core. If it's not, they can move on and slide Holmgren back to starting at center full-time.

The cost isn't free, including a lottery pick this season and a pair of young players they still very much like in Josh Giddey and Ousmane Dieng. At the same time, this deal is close to salary-neutral, allowing the Thunder to still go big-game fishing in free agency. If they don't add to their core, this trade would give them a starting lineup of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, Jalen Williams, Chet Holmgren and Jarrett Allen. That defense should terrify the rest of the league.

This deal is not an obvious choice, but that's more because of the first question than the second. This is fair value for an impact player who would elevate their defense to an elite level. Do they pull the trigger? That's a more difficult question to answer.

Grade: B+

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