The NBA trade deadline is a week away, and everyone with a blog or a microphone knows what the Oklahoma City Thunder need.
They only lack a low-post scorer, says Charles Barkley. Maybe a knock-down shooter, opines Bill Simmons. A more unselfish point guard is the elixir, claims a vocal minority of the blogosphere.
Tonight’s come-from-behind victory over the Phoenix Suns gave Thunder observers an extended look at some players who might look good in orange and blue. Each potential Thunder target appears next to a workable-under-salary-cap-rules, if not realistic, trade.
Low-Post Scorer: Marcin Gortat (TRADE: Gortat & Josh Childress for Kendrick Perkins & Nazr Mohammed)
No Thunder big man plays the screener in the pick and roll half as effectively as Phoenix’s center. Serge Ibaka is the better athlete, but doesn’t run the floor or finish with Gortat’s efficiency. This could also reflect the teams’ contrasting floor generals, but that discussion will wait.
Gortat’s back-to-the-basket game, coupled with the finishing skills, would give Oklahoma City’s attack a new dimension – as he proved in the first half by scoring 18 points against any player or two who dared impede him. He could run with the young Thunder in transition and ease their offensive burden by upping their number of easy baskets.
Knock-Down Shooter: Jared Dudley/Markieff Morris/Channing Frye/Michael Redd (SAMPLE TRADES: Dudley for Thabo Sefalosha; Morris and Childress for Sefalosha, Eric Maynor, and Royal Ivey)
Daequan Cook is the only Thunder player with a real spot-up game, but his shot has lacked consistency this season. Any of these Suns might play the role of kick-out man better, but chicken/egg dynamics make it hard to tell whether they’d be as effective playing without the next name in question – who could also fill the outside shooting hole as well as any of them.
Unselfish Point Guard: Steve Nash (TRADE: Nash & Ronnie Price for Westbrook, Cole Aldrich, and Maynor)
The pinpoint passes and otherworldly vision that Nash used to pile up 13 assists in tonight’s first half are not in Westbrook’s skill set. It’s easy to drool at the thought of Nash finding Durant open on kick-outs, or penetrating and dishing to Ibaka the way he does with Gortat..
He couldn’t overpower defenders like Westbrook does at least twice per quarter, nor could he leap over seven-footers to snare the offensive rebounds with which Westbrook garners some of the Thunder’s only extra possessions.
Russell, though, could only dream of being in Nash’s class as a spot-up shooter, as he showed with a few off-balance misses tonight (though he was accurate from deep off the dribble). The Thunder front line could also mask some of Nash’s defensive deficiencies.
Both Nash and Westbrook have singular games, and their teammates have learned to play accordingly. Were they to switch teams, though, it would be fascinating to watch the ensuing adjustments – and the Thunder just might come out of the deal stronger.
About the Author
Written by Steven Jones
Portland native, Highland Park resident, middle school teacher/basketball coach.