OKC Thunder Trade Target: Utah Jazz Center Kelly Olynyk

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Why The OKC Thunder Should Trade For Kelly Olynyk

The rebuilding Jazz have been bringing veteran Kelly Olynyk off the bench, where he has averaged roughly seven points, five rebounds, and three assists on elite 57/45/89 shooting splits. Those are quality numbers, but the rate stats shine a spotlight on his offensive production and versatility.

Per Basketball Reference, the only players to rank top fifty across the NBA in total rebound percentage, assist percentage, and true shooting percentage are Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Domantas Sabonis…and Kelly Olynyk. 

Sam Presti and Mark Daigneault value versatile bigs that can do a bit of everything because that archetype is difficult for defenses to exploit. Those centers are not confined to being a mere screener and roller, so the offense can radically change their offensive sets from one possession to the next.

For example, OKC loves to utilize guard-on-guard screens, such as the fearsome Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Isaiah Joe pairing. A traditional center would be a hindrance in this scenario because the opposing center could sag off of him to protect the paint from the driving ball handler. However, Olynyk’s catch-and-shoot prowess significantly deters the opposing center from this choice. 

Olynyk’s passing and vision boost the bench offense too. He can find backdoor cutters while orchestrating a dribble-handoff, thus enhancing the threats. OKC’s guards don’t constantly have to be on-ball either for the Thunder to see offensive creation.

Meanwhile, Olynyk’s size and rebounding are massive boosts for a squad that ranks dead last in opponent offensive rebound rate and opponent put-back frequency. Perhaps most importantly, his versatility allows him to share the court with Chet Holmgren and thrive. 

Now, Olynyk’s glaring flaw is defense; he doesn’t protect the rim in the slightest or own the lateral quickness to navigate on the perimeter. However, OKC’s roster is riddled with elite defenders that can help compensate, such as Chet Holmgren and Kenrich Williams. 

In addition to his on-court value, Olynyk provides veteran leadership to an extremely young team. He has racked up 835 minutes across 48 playoff games throughout his career. Olynyk was a part of Boston’s 2017 Eastern Conference Finals run and Miami’s 2020 Finals journey. In terms of lessons (especially for the role players), Olynyk possesses plenty of advice and guidance. 

Finally, he is on an expiring contract worth about $12M, which can easily be matched. OKC could utilize Davis Bertans’ salary or combine Aleksej Pokusevski and Tre Mann’s contracts to reach the necessary threshold. Overall, if Sam Presti opts for a smaller addition to the roster, then Kelly Olynyk fills plenty of weaknesses while providing desired offensive versatility. Danny Ainge and the Utah Jazz are always open for business too.

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