It wasn’t long ago that the Oklahoma City Thunder were tied for the least amount of losses in the Western Conference. Now, the Thunder suddenly find themselves four losses behind the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets and are clinging to the No. 3 seed.
Oklahoma City has lost five of its last six games, most recently suffering a brutal home less to a LeBron James-less Los Angeles Lakers team at home on Thursday night, blowing a double-digit lead in a 138-128 overtime defeat. In the loss, Russell Westbrook shot 7-of-30 from the floor and OKC shot just 39.4 percent as a team overall, also going just 24-of-36 from the free-throw line.
While Paul George is having one of the best years of his career, Westbrook is having one of the worst, and the Thunder just don’t have enough talent on the offensive side of the ball to compensate for Westbrook’s struggles.
Dennis Schroder has been doing all he can off the bench, but Oklahoma City’s depth really starts and ends with him. The Thunder desperately need to add some other pieces if they seriously want to contend with the Warriors in the Western Conference playoffs, so they should be a very active team at next month’s trading deadline.
Here are three players Oklahoma City can reasonable target between now and then:
3. Alec Burks
The Cleveland Cavaliers picked up Burks in a trade with the Utah Jazz earlier this season, but with Burks being 27 years old and not having much of a ceiling, the Cavaliers could very well move him at the deadline.
Burks is nothing extraordinary, but he would help fill the gaping hole the Thunder have at shooting guard and provide them with a decent perimeter shooter.
This season, Burks is averaging 10.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists over 23.6 minutes per game while shooting 40.5 percent from the floor, 38.9 percent from three-point range and 82.9 percent from the free-throw line.
That is definitely solid enough to help an Oklahoma City team that is currently getting 5.6 points per game from its starting 2-guard in Terrance Ferguson.
Burks has been around since the 2011-12 campaign and was actually on the Jazz team that eliminated the Thunder from the first round of the playoffs last spring, so he knows the drill.
He would provide a decent outlet for Westbrook and George on drives, helping OKC with its less-than-stellar floor spacing and giving the team a viable weapon from behind the three-point line, something it desperately needs.
2. Terrence Ross
Like Burks, Ross is 27 years old and looks to have capped out in terms of reaching his potential. He’ll never be anything special, but he can certainly help a team in need of some wing scoring.
In 44 games this season, Ross is averaging a career-high 13.9 points per game in addition to 3.1 rebounds across 26 minutes a night, making 43.5 percent of his field-goal attempts, 39.3 percent of his three-point tries and 83.1 percent of his foul shots.
Plus, Ross is long and is capable of defending multiple positions, which would help mitigate the sustained absence of defensive ace Andre Roberson.
Ross can play wither wing spot and is a lifetime 37.4 percent long-distance shooter, so he can definitely help the Thunder in that regard. He also has the ability to fill it up in spurts as a microwave scorer off the bench, which is something OKC simply does not have outside of Schroder.
The Orlando Magic are rumored to be interested in moving Ross, whose contract expires this summer. Oklahoma City seems like the perfect landing spot, and he would not cost that much in return.
1. E’Twaun Moore
Let’s just say that the New Orleans Pelicans completely fall out of the Western Conference playoff picture and decide to become sellers at next month’s trading deadline. It probably won’t happen, but it does remain a possibility.
If that does, indeed, occur, Moore would likely be one of the first guys the Pelicans look to trade.
He is 29 years old and has another year remaining on his deal at just $8.7 million after this season, so he would certainly have some value on the trade market.
Moore has actually developed into one of New Orleans’ best offensive players, averaging 12.7 points per game while shooting 48.1 percent from the floor, 41.5 percent from three-point range and 75 percent from downtown.
Last year, he registered 12.5 points per game and shot 50.8 percent from the field and 42.5 percent from beyond the arc, so it’s safe to say that he has turned into a very efficient shooter.
He is not a very good defensive player, but the Thunder are good enough defensively where they can hide him. Offensively, though, he would add a new dimension to OKC, providing a dependable third option and opening up the floor for Westbrook and George.
Moore doesn’t really get to the free-throw line or create his own shot, but on the Thunder, that’s okay, as he can simply serve as a spot-up shooter, which is really exactly what Oklahoma City needs.