Sam Presti likes to leave his options open.
The Thunder general manager still hasn't closed the door on making a trade before Thursday's deadline. And he won't. Presti can't come to any sweeping conclusions and announce them publicly because he never knows what deal might come along.
But barring some no-brainer that would make the Thunder come out like bandits, it doesn't appear likely that Oklahoma City will make a move.
Despite a handful of shortcomings that have included defensive rebounding, erratic bench scoring and, now, inexperience at the backup point guard position, it seems the Thunder is destined to stand pat.
At this point, the Thunder has many more reasons to stick with the status quo than switch gears even in the slightest.
For starters, the Thunder is 32-9 with nearly two-thirds of the year in the books. OKC is five games ahead of second-placed San Antonio and is on pace to win 52 games. At its current rate, the Thunder would wrap up home-court advantage through the Western Conference Finals and possibly the NBA Finals, too, depending on how Chicago and Miami close out the season.
Aside from seeding, the regular season success won't matter once the playoffs begin and the games turn into more of a chess match of strategies and matchups. That's why some have clamored for a change despite the team's success. There's a chance that the things the Thunder is skating by with now won't hold up in the postseason. But when healthy, the Thunder has a roster equipped to compete with any team in the league in a seven-game series.
Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kevin Durant form the league's highest scoring trio at 68.8 points per game, giving the Thunder ample offensive firepower against any defense. Once Thabo Sefolosha returns from a foot injury, the Thunder again will have a defensive stopper to slow down perimeter scorers. And in Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed, the Thunder has a quarter of big men that many opposing coaches already have labeled the league's best defensive rotation.
None of those players figure to be dealt. The remaining pieces — Daequan Cook, Reggie Jackson, Cole Aldrich, Lazar Hayward, Ryan Reid, Eric Maynor and Royal Ivey — are either much-needed role players or developing prospects. But none have a ton of trade value. That limits the Thunder's options.
Another hurdle is the limitations the Thunder has on what it could accept in any deal. Ibaka and Harden are eligible for contract extensions this summer, and the team isn't going to do anything to jeopardize locking them in for the long haul. Their deals would kick in at the start of the 2013-14 season, meaning any player coming to OKC would have to be on the last year of his contract or, at worst, have only one more year remaining.
There's also the issue of chemistry. The Thunder has a squad now that's filled with players who know and accept their roles. There is no guarantee that any player worthy of trading for will do the same once he gets in. Additionally, the Thunder has just 24 games remaining following the deadline, which leaves little time to integrate new pieces, especially with so little practice time in this compacted schedule.
It's more likely, therefore, that any improvements will be made organically. Don't be surprised if the backup point guard spot continues to be manned by Jackson. The Thunder drafted him 24th overall and maintains belief in him and his ability to get better in the final 25 games. Defensive rebounding, meanwhile, will just have to be more of a focus from here out, as well as the team's turnover problem.
But let's not forget, this isn't the time to be playing your best ball. It's always better to enter into the playoffs with a head of steam and a chance to peak at that point. These final 25 regular season games will be used to shore up issues to give the Thunder a shot at doing just that.
Besides, there is not a perfect team in basketball. Every team has some type of flaw.
The Thunder's can be brutal to bear at times. But, by comparison, Oklahoma City is in a terrific place and it wouldn't seem prudent for the Thunder to deviate from the direction it is headed in now.