The way I see it, the Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the few teams in the NBA that are playing with house money this season. Given how young they are, I don't think anyone realistically thought that through 50 games of this season that the Thunder would be 35-16 and sitting atop of the Western Conference (in a 4 way tie), yet here we are. You could make the case that they are maybe a year or two ahead of schedule when it comes to actual contention, which mean they had an interesting position entering today's deadline.
Given the fact that they have 10 billion picks and some moveable salary, is this the moment that Sam Presti decides to strike? Is there a big needle moving trade out there that brings in a star level player for the second half push/playoffs?
Well, sort of
Is Gordon Hayward the same All Star level player we saw in Utah? No. But that's OK. To me, this is the perfect type of "going for it" type trade that the Thunder should be making while not giving up any of their main assets. You can survive losing Tre Mann and Davis Bertans and whatever picks go along with this deal, and assuming he can stay on the court, Hayward gives the Thunder a versatile player for their playoff push who fits their style of play.
Better yet, it gives them a legit option in closing lineups so they don't have to rely on someone like Josh Giddey. In a playoff series, if you can't shoot, you're going to get exploited. This season Giddey is shooting just 33% from deep and is a career 30% shooter. Having an option like Hayward (46/36%) now be able to slide into that spot in certain closing lineups is a huge win for OKC. Hayward gives you size, playmaking, and three level scoring, all of which the Thunder could use.
The issue of course is he never plays. Only 25 games this season, 50 last year, 49 the year before that, 44 the year before that, and 52 in 2019-20. That's partly why he was available in addition to his $31M expiring deal, but it's also exactly why the Thunder are smart for making this move. The cost wasn't crazy, they aren't tied long term to any bad money, and it's a player and position of need. If the biggest question you have is health, a team like OKC can afford to roll the dice there.
It also shows that the Thunder do not really see this as a year where they should just be happy to be good. They're going for it in a sense, which everyone can appreciate. When you have the assets and the opportunity, you need to strike. The Nuggets aren't going anywhere, the Clippers are one of the hottest teams in the league, the Suns are heating up, there's no guarantee that the Thunder are going to walk to the WCF, so adding a good player like Hayward shows that they recognize the situation that is in front of them. OKC has just as good a shot as anyone else in the West, so not being complacent with where they are and adding players for this run, even if they end up being rentals, is smart.
For Hayward, I'm happy we get to see him back on a team that matters again. Hayward on a good team is way more intriguing than him staying on the tanking Hornets, and he's still productive enough to be a needle mover in a playoff series. I just hope he can finally find a stretch of prolonged health, because ever since he blew up his ankle 5 seconds into his Celts career, it's been a disaster for him healthwise. The Western Conference seems to be getting more stacked by the day, and I don't think any of us saw the 35-16 Thunder bringing in this level of talent, which is why the NBA's trade deadline is so much fun.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to refreshing my timeline.