After the league-shaking deal that sent Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Oklahoma City Thunder have been given a chance to start over. In exchange for George, they received young point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and veteran forward Danilo Gallinari, in addition to a whopping five first round picks, with two pick swaps.
However, the Thunder have two major obstacles stopping them from entering an immediate, full-scale rebuild: Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams. Fortunately, there is a way that the Thunder send both hefty contracts to separate teams, creating a contender in the East and adding to an intriguing team in the West.
DET receive: Russell Westbrook
NOP receive: Steven Adams
(from NOP): E’Twuan Moore, Darius Miller, Jason Smith, 2022 1st
Here are the details in ESPN’s Trade Machine (minus the draft picks):
Now, the star power is not coming back to OKC in this trade, as none of the six players they receive have been chosen as an all-star at any point in their careers.
However, as can be seen above, all six players are inked on either one or two-year deals, which is key because the entirety of the $50+ million that they’re acquiring will come off the books by the conclusion of the 2020-21 campaign. Believe it or not, the $54.3 million the Thunder receive in those 6 players is less than the $64.3 million they’re giving away, in the form of just two players.
After garnering 5 first-rounders from the Clippers, they’ll now have acquired 8 total future firsts in close succession. Building around recently acquired Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Thunder will be a force to reckon with in a few years after garnering such lucrative draft capital.
For Detroit, acquiring Russell Westbrook makes sense. Franchise cornerstones Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin are locked into hefty contracts and stuck in limbo on the edge of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, Westbrook immediately turns them into a top-echelon team in the conference.
With an expensive trio of Westbrook, Griffin and Drummond, and devoid of two draft picks that would belong to OKC, the Pistons are going for it all, and they’ll fall flat on their face if they miss. After sacrificing a valuable young perimeter asset in Kennard, their first order of business will be acquiring some three-point shooters, as the three stars they’ll have aren’t great from downtown.
The Pelicans acquiring Steven Adams may not make a ton of sense, given that they just spent a first-round pick on another center (Jaxson Hayes). However, Hayes is viewed as a raw talent in need of some polishing, which Adams could provide over the two years remaining on his deal.
This scenario can be likened to what the New York Knicks just did a season ago with Mitchell Robinson, pulling the then-rookie off the bench in relief of the trio of Luke Kornet, Enes Kanter and eventually DeAndre Jordan. Robinson is the center of the future for New York and using that same logic, New Orleans will get a two-year audition from Hayes to see if he can effectively take the reigns from Steven Adams.
Also, with this acquisition, the Pelicans will have unparalleled depth. They’d have a guard rotation featuring Jrue Holiday, J.J. Redick, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Frank Jackson, followed by Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Stanley Johnson and newly signed Nicolo Melli in the forward rotation, leaving Steven Adams, Jaxson Hayes and Jahlil Okafor as the centers. That could be the deepest bench in the association, and if Williamson, Hayes, Alexander-Walker and Melli pan out, it could be the deepest bench by a significant margin and a starting lineup contending for rings.
All three of these teams in this trade would gain significant rewards. The Thunder build on an already ridiculous amount of first-round draft picks. Detroit builds the best trio in the East that could compete with any team in the conference. The Pelicans, for the cost of some current bench guys that they clearly can do without based on the list in the preceding paragraph, and one future first, get a proven glass cleaner for a team predicated on ridiculous guard depth beside the forward tandem of Williamson and Ingram.
Though this is a complicated multi-team deal for the OKC faithful to wrap their heads around, especially since the talents of Westbrook and Adams are not reciprocated, the draft pick compensation will make it well worth it in a few years. It makes little sense to hold onto Westbrook’s four-year contract when they clearly have no intention of winning now after moving Paul George.
Russell Westbrook has allegedly made his desire to work his way out of Oklahoma City public in recent days, and GM Sam Presti would be wise to oblige now while his market is hottest with four years of commitment remaining on the Brodie’s contract.
With free agency getting hotter by the day, shaking up the market once again with another huge trade is far from out of the question. The market for key reserves could become even more tantalizing, as the Pistons would need to build themselves a serviceable bench after dealing the assets mentioned earlier in this trade. The fireworks would be going off around the rest of the conference, and the league, if the Pistons and Pelicans acquired Westbrook and Adams respectively. So prepare for July 4th a few days late.