With the NBA trade deadline a thing of the past, teams turn their attention to buyout candidates. The trade deadline ended up being one of the most active in years with several teams making strategic moves.
However, one team that remained quiet last Thursday was the Oklahoma City Thunder, opting to watch from afar as players changed uniforms.
You can expect the Thunder to make more noise during the last three weeks of February before the March 1 buyout deadline. The Thunder could use at least one veteran and possibly two, as they push forward heading toward the final quarter of the regular season and into the playoffs.
Oklahoma City is currently in sixth place in the Western Conference standings at 31-25. The Thunder are tied with the Trail Blazers, but Portland holds the tiebreaker between the two teams at his point of the season. Oklahoma City trails fourth-place Minnesota by two games.
The Thunder need to play with more consistency as they are just 5-5 over their last 10 games played. To do that they are tempted to bring in a veteran they can give playing time to and a chance to make a deep run in the postseason.
Oklahoma City needs to find a player that can make defensive stops similar to Andre Roberson. With Roberson out for the season, the Thunder lacks a defensive stopper and although no one available would match Roberson’s defensive abilities, there are players that are strong defenders.
It is important that a player, who has his contract bought out, must be signed prior to March 1 or he will not be eligible to play for his new team during the postseason.
Listed below are a few names the Thunder will be looking at over the next couple of weeks.
7) Joakim Noah
Reports show that the Thunder is interested in Noah and would pick him up if the veteran center agreed to a buyout with the New York Knicks. Having Noah on the roster would give the Thunder much needed depth in the frontcourt. However, he is averaging just 1.7 points and 2.0 rebounds per game this season as the Knicks tried to move him during the trade deadline.
Reports have circulated since Thomas was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers that if the point guard is relegated to coming off the bench, he might push for a contract buyout. While his short stint with the Cavaliers was anything but good, he could return to the way he played for the Celtics under a new coaching staff and surrounded by different players and personalities than he experienced in Cleveland. Although Thomas would not likely start if he came to the Thunder,the point guardmight be willing to come off the bench for a playoff contender, such as the Thunder, rather than the Lakers, who are struggling with a very young lineup.
5) Derrick Rose
Utah is reportedly going to release Rose, who they acquired Thursday from the Cavaliers. He is expected to have a few options to contemplate once he is a free agent. Oklahoma City would have to consider if signing Rose would give them a better option as a backup in the backcourt than would Raymond Felton.
4) Tony Allen
Chicago was set to trade Allen, but ended up keeping the 36-year old veteran. Rumors have surfaced that the Thunder is interested in obtaining Allen and many are of the opinion he would be a good fit. While no one is able to match the defensive abilities of Andre Roberson, Allen could be the best option available, even though he is on the downside of his pro career.
Belinelli was also expected to be traded before the trade deadline on Thursday, but was not and is still with the Atlanta Hawks. Belinelli has been playing under the radar but has had one of his best seasons in his NBA career averaging 11.2 points per game, while shooting 37.2% from 3-point territory. He can shoot with the best of them from downtown.
2) Boris Diaw
Diaw is currently in France, but his contract there has an out clause for returning to the NBA. More than one NBA team is said to be talking with Diaw, thanks to the playoff experience he has and the concept of team first that he always has played by. With a team player on the roster, the Thunder would not have to worry about egos coming into play if Diaw’s minutes ended up being limited.
1) Marreese Speights
Orlando will not reach the playoffs and have a long way to go before becoming a playoff contender. Speights may be willing to push for a buyout so he could join a team headed to the postseason. He would add much-needed frontcourt depth, playoff experience as well as give them additional three-point shooting.
Buyout action is not expected to heat up until later this month and while the options listed above may not pan out and others may come into focus, you can expect the Thunder not to side quietly when it comes to buyouts like they did during the trade deadline.
The chemistry of their three top players Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony seems to finally be gelling and adding a player or possibly two through buyouts would not have any ill effect since the buyout addition or additions would see minutes off the bench and not step into a starting role.
Things could become more in perspective by the end of the month for the Thunder and a buyout additional team could play an important role in their drive for a deep postseason run.