As the trade deadline starts nearing (about a month away), Oklahoma City is the talk of the town. With a roster full of savvy veterans with expiring contracts, contending teams have their eyes on the Thunder. One thing that I can't help but wonder: How does OKC have so many players that other teams desperately want, but yet the Thunder are 6-33? Does that make sense to anyone? If the roster is full of coveted players, shouldn't that mean the team shouldn't be six and thirty-three? I digress...
Most recently, Chris Sheridan wrote a piece for ESPN.com talking Earl Watson trades. One interesting thing he said (among many interesting things he said): "Well, if you are playing GM the same way I am, the best option seems to be to wait another five weeks, wait for a better offer and let Watson keep doing what he's doing. Eventually, someone will get him on the cheap. But the guess here is that the selling price will be a little higher than it was when the Thunder were ready to let the trade to Charlotte go through, especially if Watson keeps averaging 10 assists as he has the past two games."
You have to give it up to Earl. He was a big time stinker for the first two months, but now he's playing well and becoming a more attractive pick-up for a contender. So thanks Earl for upgrading your value from a late second-rounder and an aged, out-of-his-prime veteran with a huge contract to maybe a late first with that crusty veteran.
But I'm not even sure if trading Watson is the best move. I realize now the Thunder have Chucky Atkins and Kyle Weaver's also playing a little back-up at point, but in this league, you need a solid back-up point man. Watson has two years left on his deal and while I realize Russell Westbrook is playing very well, he is still 20 and is still learning a new position. If this is the Earl Watson we could see playing second fiddle to RW, why not keep him around for another year? He's averaging close to 10 points and 10 assists the past week and while I realize he won't keep that up, now that he's evidently healthy, his game has improved drastically.
Is what Earl can give back to the Thunder via trade worth more than what he can give potentially on the court? I never thought I'd say that especially with how Earl made me want to leap out of Loud City at a few times earlier in the year, but if he can continue to play consistently, I'm not sure I wouldn't like to keep him.
But it seems Presti might be hell-bent on shipping Watson. So what can OKC get? As Sheridan said, both Boston and the Lakers would love to get Watson, but they don't have players that can match up salary-wise. With some playing on the ESPN Trade Machine, here's the deals I came up with. Keep in mind, if Bill Simmons is the Picasso of the Trade Machine, I'm Homer Simpson with a barbecue pit .
A. Boston. Boston really doesn't have anything to offer because anyone with a contract that could line up is untouchable. The guys the Celtics would be willing to deal (Eddie House, J.R. Giddens, Brian Scalabrine) don't make enough to match Earl's $6.2 million. The Machine does allow a trade of House, Giddens and Scalabrine go through for Watson but come on, is that going to happen? So cancel out Boston. Nothing happening there.
B. Los Angeles. Honestly, there's not too much that's attractive on their roster other than Trevor Ariza and Jordan Farmar. But no way the Lakers let Ariza go for Earl Freaking Watson. I would assume Farmar would be part of the deal because he's the guy getting replaced if Watson comes to town. And also the fact it's been about three weeks since Farmar has stepped on the court. Everyone assumes both Boston and L.A. would attempt to use draft picks, but how many late first round picks can Sam Presti use over the next three years? He's already got about 200 stockpiled and obviously he's not going to use them otherwise we'd see a roster full of Earl Watson's, if that makes sense. I don't think anything is working out here.
C. A three-way trade. This little diddy could make something possible. Here's one I worked up (though there's probably as much chance of it happening as me playing power forward next year): Oklahoma City sends Earl Watson to Los Angeles, the Lakers send Vladamir Radmonivic to San Antonio and the Spurs send Roger Mason Jr. and Jacque Vaughn's expiring deal to Oklahoma City. The Lakers get the backup point guard they so desperately need, the Spurs get a solid three-point shooting small/power forward to replace the shaky Matt Bonner and OKC gets the three-point threat it clearly needs. Everybody's a winner right? Well, the hitch is whether or not San Antonio would want Radmonovic. I think the Lakers would part with him because he's only getting about 18 minutes a game, but I don't know if he fits into the Spur game plan, plus Bonner has done a pretty good job thus far. And also, I'm not even sure San Antonio would be alright with giving up a promising three-point threat for a streaky veteran tweener. Maybe the Thunder could toss one of its picks in to sweeten the pot. I'm just thinking out loud here.
Basically, you can spend hours swinging three-way deals the Trade Machine will accept, but who knows if Presti could actually pull one off. Joe Smith is likely to be dealt, Chris Wilcox will probably be on the move and even Damien Wilkins or Chucky Atkins could be packing bags. Something's going to happen, but we're just not sure what. Hopefully, it's something tangible that we can say, "Yep, this improved the team NOW," instead of another, "Well, we got a second-rounder from Charlotte and cash, but I'm sure we'll deal that pick later for something good." Shooting guard is the position that's the most glaring weakness so Presti should focus there and flip one of these players to help the team get better today. I'm sure he has big plans for the offseason as well, but why not take a step today?
On another note, you've got to love this quote from Kevin Durant on whether or not he'd like to play in New Jersey when his contract is up in 2010: "I want to stay in Oklahoma as long as possible. I do, that’s the honest truth. I love it there."