OKC Thunder NBA Trade Deadline primer

The Oklahoma City Thunder and the NBA World turn their attention to Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline. Teams have from now until Thursday, March 25th to get deals done and either improve or deconstruct their teams. There are a ton of names on the market in the NBA landscape, from John Collins to Aaron Gordon to George Hill and even some murmurers of Kyle Lowry. The available players range from aging veterans to All-Stars to young guns who just have not panned out yet and everything in between.

The NBA Trade Deadline will be full of twists and turns throughout this week. Man your battle stations, as I am prepared to sit at my desk staring at tweet deck and drinking coffee waiting for any crumbs of information to leak out from the tip-lipped Thunder around this time for hours on end! So for this article, let’s review what we do know. Who is available? Who is the most likely to move? When will we see deals?

The first and most pressing question for most, is when will these deals happen? If I had to guess, I would assume most, if not all, moves will come on Thursday. A buzzer-beater if you will. I think deals will be flying left and right on Thursday afternoon. However, expect the unexpected with Sam Presti which is why I am already staked out for deals.

So, the question is, who is available? Who are the Oklahoma City Thunder looking to move? Let’s put them in order of who is most likely to least likely to be dealt on Thursday.

George Hill is the foregone conclusion that he will be dealt. The sharpshooting guard can fill a ton of holes for contending teams. He can be a backup point guard, he can play off-ball, he can do about anything you need him to while helping second unit offenses not become stagnant. The 34-year-old has only played in 14 games this year due to a thumb injury. However, it has been explained to those of us in the media by Mark Daigneault that the difficult thing about this injury is due to it being on his thumb. It gives the impression that if it was on a different finger, Hill would’ve been back long before. It is also important to note that the Thunder have been very conservative with injuries this year. Even deploying “Caution and Maintenance” with their All-Star 22-year-old. It is hard to find the contending team that wouldn’t be interesting in Hill. The Clippers and 76ers are the teams that have put their names on being interested. I would monitor the Boston Celtics, and basically every other contender as well for Hill’s services.

Mike Muscala is another name to watch out for, and this is purely speculation from seemingly everyone with a brain that watches the Thunder play basketball, but there is absolutely some Sam Presti funny business going on with Mike Muscala. The stretch five is having one of the best years of his career and has not even played 20 total minutes in the second half of the season, being sidelined with DNP-CD’s. The team is not even coming up with an injury for Muscala, they are just not playing him. Muscala can be a valuable piece off the bench for a contending team, especially teams who struggle to score in the half-court game that the postseason turns into, Muscala can be that spark-plug off the bench. Mike Muscala is owed 2.3 million dollars this year and is on an expiring contract, which can really help gain flexibility for whoever trades for him. However, with that small price tag, the number of players teams would want to give up who make that amount of money to match salaries is small so you could see Muscala be thrown into a trade like the aforementioned George Hill trade. There have been no rumors about Muscala’s suitors but teams can really benefit from acquiring him.

Kenrich Williams might be the most interesting name on the block for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Kenny Hustle has won over the hearts of Thunder fans, his play has been exactly what Thunder fans love to see. Heart, Effort, Energy, Hustle, all that good stuff. Nice screens, nice off-ball cuts, including Mark Daigneault calling him “one of the best cutters” to be in OKC in a long time. However, he is 26-years-old on a rebuilding team. He provides a skillset that contenders desperately want for their second units, and is on a team-friendly deal (2 million, including non-guaranteed money in 2021-22, and 2022-23). However, much like the fans, it appears this organization loves Kenrich Williams. 26-years-old is not that old, and the simple feel-good of myself and every other Thunder fan loving to watch Kenrich Williams play basketball. With Isaiah Roby’s play this year, being just 22-years-old, of course fitting the timeline much better, and the upcoming roster crunch this offseason for OKC, it opens up the pathway to deal the 26-year-old Williams as his value will never be higher. With Williams, Sam Presti is in a win-win position. Either decision is easily explainable no matter if the OKC Thunder despite to trade him or keep him. Williams is by far the most polarizing name for the Thunder this deadline.

Darius Miller is an under-the-radar trade candidate, his seven-million-dollar salary can help facilitate trades if other teams need help, and he provides a simple but coveted skill and that is shooting. For seven million dollars on an expiring deal, I would not be stunned to see Miller getting dealt. While we are on the salary cap helper section, Meyers Leonard is sadly a name that must be thrown in. Despite his prejudiced actions a few weeks ago, the NBA has made it clear they value him like a log in a spreadsheet to help balance their checkbooks. Again, if teams need help making the money work on a big trade, Meyers Leonard’s contract can help facilitate a deal though it is unlikely.

Justin Jackson has been more efficient than what we are used to seeing from the North Carolina product, especially if you toss out his early-season garbage time minutes. Woj has said Sam Presti is “receiving calls” on Justin Jackson, and if the team gets anything even remotely close to an asset for a player in Justin Jackson who receives spotty minutes at best and is an RFA in this offseason and someone OKC is not expected to bring back, I have to imagine Sam Presti will do it.

Finally, we are down to the final player that I think will be available as the trade deadline approaches for the OKC Thunder, Al Horford. Yes, Al Horford, the aging wonder that looked awful in Philly, but as I predicted looks much better in a new system in OKC. Horford, as a player, makes a ton of contenders better such as the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, and just about anyone. The issue is his contract. If his contract was not in the way, Horford would be a hot commodity this time of year if say he was on an expiring deal. Instead, he is owed 27-million dollars this year, 27 next year, and 26.5 the year after before being a UFA in 2023-24.

However, as always, expected the unexpected like you’re playing Big Brother when it comes to what Sam Presti can pull off. Horford, who has looked like a good player and fully healthy, has rested all but three games in the second half of the season. In those three games, he has averaged 26-minutes per game which is down from his 28-minutes per game overall this season.

The biggest example of this Sam Presti funny business is tonight’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Al Horford rested against the Houston Rockets on Sunday on the front end of a back-to-back, the team had two straight off days on Friday and Saturday, and Horford has not played since March 18th yet he is still resting? With another team off-day tomorrow? There are not a lot of ways to describe this other than Sam Presti is probably getting calls right now about Horford and does not want to jeopardize that. It is not like when he plays Horford looks his age, he has looked good physically this year. The contract makes it incredibly hard to move Horford, but watch out for the Chicago Bulls who have the big expiring deals to make this work and reunite Al Horford with Billy Donovan.

It is now time for predictions, so who do I predict truly gets moved this deadline? Well, that is a tough one to answer. I think the locks to get moved are George Hill and Mike Muscala, anything past that is gravy. I do think that as the deadline approaches, teams will start to put pressure on Sam Presti to move such a valuable player like Kenrich Williams to a contender. Will he give in? We will see, and for some reason, I am predicting yes. Ultimately I think Hill, Muscala, and Williams will be the extend of the trades, but would it shock you if the Bulls made that move for Al Horford? I do not think so. None of the players listed in this article getting dealt would shock me, but as laid out there are reasons why they won’t.

Who do you think will get traded? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

Rylan Stiles

Rylan Stiles is the host of the Locked on Thunder podcast, a media member with the Thunder and the NBA, and Founder of BricktownBuckets.com.

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