Sitting currently as the top seed in the Western Conference with a 17-8 record, the Oklahoma City Thunder have had a strong start to their season. Led by a dynamic duo of Paul George and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder have solidified themselves as real contenders in the West.
George and Westbrook’s chemistry has clearly grown stronger since PG decided to re-sign in Oklahoma City this past summer, and both have played at an extremely high level thus far. Steven Adams has been dominant inside the paint, averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds per game. Carmelo Anthony is no longer on the roster.
However, the Thunder do have their issues and it starts with their three-point shooting. In today’s NBA, being able to fill it up from outside is imperative to a team’s success. OKC shoots just 31.9 percent from deep as a team, putting them among the worst shooting teams in the league. This is indicative in their offensive efficiency as well, a place where they come in as 19th in the NBA.
Jerami Grant leads Oklahoma City in three-point percentage at a measly 39 percent clip. That is not ideal. George is shooting just 36 percent from deep and Westbrook has been horrendous, currently at a 22 percent mark for the season.
OKC has the athleticism and big men that can lead to playoff success, but lack the level of shooting they need come April and May. With Kyle Korver already off the board as a potential target for the Thunder, here are three early NBA trade deadline targets for the Oklahoma City Thunder that can take them to the next level.
3. G Wayne Ellington – Miami Heat
The 31 year-old Ellington is on a team-friendly contract – at a one-year deal and making just $6.27 million for this season before becoming an unrestricted free agent at year’s end.
He’s shooting 38 percent from deep on the year, matching his career mark and expressing the great consistency he’s shown throughout his nine-year career. Ellington is the kind of guy you draw up plays for to get open shots, which is what the Thunder need.
Though he does struggle defensively, he’s not unplayable and is passable on that end of the floor.
Acquiring Ellington wouldn’t cost the Thunder much either, as probably a second-round pick and another young player can get the job done.
They call Wayne Ellington “The Man with the Golden Arm” for a reason. He can shoot the basketball. The Oklahoma City Thunder need players like that, making Ellington an immediate and necessary fit.
2. G DJ Augustin – Orlando Magic
DJ Augustin is playing good basketball for the Orlando Magic this season at the point guard position. The ten-year veteran from Texas is averaging 10 points and 5 assists per game on the year, but most impressively is in the top 20 in the NBA in three-point shooting, at a very respectable mark of 42 percent.
The Magic will most likely be looking to move Augustin come trade deadline time, even though they are playing competitive basketball right now.
The well-traveled veteran makes sense for the Oklahoma City Thunder, even with their current crowded backcourt. Newly acquired Dennis Schroder has been good for OKC, averaging around 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game in a versatile role for the team.
However, you can never have enough shooting. Wing/guard hybrids such as Alex Abrines, Hamidou Diallo, and Terrance Ferguson have struggled from three-point range this year, with the three combining for around just 29 percent shooting from deep.
Augustin would slide in as a veteran that can knock down outside shots and space the floor for Russell Westbrook and Paul George. It would be interesting to see what lineups they would play him in, but Augustin is a good defender and can bother opposing point guards, which would allow Westbrook and/or Schroder to switch onto other positions and conserve energy.
Again, this is another target that wouldn’t cost the Thunder much to acquire. Like Ellington, a pair of second-round picks and a young player (like Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot) will get the job done.
1. F TJ Warren – Phoenix Suns
This one will require a lot from the Oklahoma City Thunder to pull off, and the Suns reportedly really like TJ Warren. He is a professional scorer, averaging 17 points per game on 51 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent shooting from three in his fifth year from NC State.
Warren is a perfect fit in Oklahoma City, serving as a wing scorer and clear third option to Paul George and Russell Westbrook. He can fill it up – and does it efficiently – while also remaining versatile enough to play either of the forward positions.
Warren averages just 4 rebounds per game to go along with his above-average scoring numbers, and has shown an ability to play in the stretch four spot.
Currently, Warren is in the last year of his rookie deal and will become a restricted free agent this offseason. Though the Suns do have an abundance of cap space, Warren’s elite play this year may land him a near-max deal this offseason which may be difficult for Phoenix to match.
Getting value for a player of Warren’s caliber instead of potentially letting him walk for nothing is something the Suns will need to discuss internally prior to the trade deadline.
This may leave the door open for the Thunder to make a move and put together a package to acquire Warren. A future lightly-protected first round pick, second-round pick, Hamidou Diallo, and Terrance Ferguson is a nice offer, and one that would be hard for the Suns to turn down.
TJ Warren would fit right in in Oklahoma City. Unfortunately, the Thunder most likely wouldn’t make a deal like this especially with Warren’s contract status after this year. The team won’t want to mortgage it’s future with no guarantee Warren will be on the roster long-term.
Acquiring any of these players makes the Oklahoma City Thunder better. Already a top team in the Western Conference, addressing their weaknesses and holes through potential trades will be huge come playoff time.
Nevertheless, the Thunder will almost certainly be active on the trade front when the time comes.