It’s that time of the year again, when fans of all 30 NBA teams feast on trade talk and speculative scenarios. The rumor mill already has churned out quite a few juicy possibilities, and the buzz will only blossom as we move closer to the Feb. 18 trading deadline. For Thunder fans, this year’s trading season holds much more intrigue than last February. Oklahoma City, at 20-16, enters tonight’s game against New York in eighth place in the Western Conference, a year ahead of when most thought the team would contend for a playoff spot. If OKC maintains its current pace, the Thunder would win 46 games, seemingly staring at one of the final seeds. But Thunder heads shouldn’t expect their team to make a blockbuster deal with an eye on punching its playoff ticket. Sorry to spoil the fun folks, but there are many more reasons to believe the Thunder will stand pat than make a splash. From the start, the front office has been fixated on finding long-term playoff success, not fiddling with moves that bring five more wins. Add to that, the Thunder’s meticulous management still hasn’t deciphered what pieces it does and does not have. Making a move now could add an unnecessary piece, or worse, destroy the puzzle before the picture becomes clear. Most significantly, though, are the salary-cap ramifications that come along with pulling the trigger on a major deal. Oklahoma City could be more than $15 million below the cap this summer. Any trade the Thunder makes could mean sacrificing the hard-earned space on a player who most likely carries a long-term contract. For a franchise seeking to re-sign Kevin Durant and Jeff Green this summer, surplus salary has become extremely important. But landing a player capable of lifting the Thunder into the playoffs also could mean Oklahoma City must part with a primetime player of its own. Minnesota has reportedly put Al Jefferson on the trading block. The Wolves’ asking price, according to one report: Indiana’s Danny Granger, or the Pacers’ equivalent of Durant. In addition, a major acquisition would take away playing time from the Thunder’s young players. The Thunder already doesn’t have enough minutes for D.J. White, Byron Mullens or Kyle Weaver. But that doesn’t mean the Thunder won’t deal a player before the deadline passes. Smaller deals still can be consummated. And, more than any other team, the Thunder is in a great position to pilfer an elite player if the right package is presented. The Thunder has additional assets in two first-round picks, along with expiring contracts to offer as opposed to outright talent. With a handful of franchises annually seeking to creep below the luxury tax threshold, and a few still clearing cap space for the 2010 free agent class, Oklahoma City could find a team willing to give away a big-time talent solely for financial reasons. Had it not been for Tyson Chandler’s bum foot, last February’s rescinded Thunder-Hornets deal would have proved the perfect package of a player who helps now and in the future and comes with a reasonable price tag. But that blend of benefits is only available every blue moon. Unless a similar bargain is brought to the table, expect the Thunder to hold what it’s got. Text "OKTHUNDER” to 65360 for your chance to win an OKC Thunder Fan Prize Pack. NewsOK OKC Thunder news text alerts sponsored by Totally Tickets.