Thunder, Smith Agree To Buyout
Just returned from a weekend away so I haven’t been able to post over the last few days.
But by now you know the team has reached an agreement with forward Joe Smith on a buyout, narrowly beating the deadline to allow Smith to be eligible for the playoffs with another team. Mike Baldwin has a full report on the transaction.
Smith is expected to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers later this week after he clears waivers, but what does the move mean for the Thunder?
OKC now has one roster spot available, and you can expect to see a revolving door of players in that 15th-man role over these final 23 games. The Thunder is likely to bring in a player in the immediate future, possibly before week’s end, via a 10-day contract in an attempt to get a closer look at a player’s potential and skill set.
A leading candidate could be Gary Forbes, a 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward out of UMass who is currently playing for the Tulsa 66ers. The Thunder, which owns the 66ers, acquired Forbes in a late-January trade with Sioux Falls. Forbes just turned 24 on Feb. 25 and is averaging 16.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 13 games with the 66ers. Calling up Forbes would make sense now because of the void on the wing caused by Kevin Durant’s ankle injury.
The Thunder also could look to add a young, raw big man, similar to what the team did with Steven Hill earlier this season. The team continues to track the development of Hill, who is also a member of the 66ers but is sidelined for at least two more weeks after undergoing knee surgery in early February.
Dwayne Jones, a 6-foot-11, 250-pound center, could get a look. Jones, 25, played college ball at St. Joseph’s alongside Orlando’s Jameer Nelson and Cleveland’s Delonte West and had a brief stint with Boston in 2006 and played sparingly for the Cavs from 2006-2008. He’s currently playing for the Idaho Stampede of the D-League, averaging 13.6 points and 10.2 rebounds.
Derrick Byars, the 6-foot-7, 220-pound guard/forward out of Vanderbilt, is another player to keep an eye on. Byars, remember, was a training camp invitee with the Thunder back in the fall and averaged 4.1 points in 14.8 minutes during the preseason. He’s currently playing for Bakersfield Jam of the D-League and is averaging 19.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 38.8 minutes. He’s shooting 43 percent from the 3-point line in 35 games.
And don’t count out the Thunder bringing in a point guard despite a trio of lead guards that includes Russell Westbrook, Earl Watson and Chucky Atkins. Watson and Atkins aren’t in the long-term plans and the team could choose to evaluate a younger player for an extended period of time. Blake Ahearn, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound guard out of Missouri State who is currently playing for the Dakota Wizards, is a sharp shooter who’s had stints with the San Antonio Spurs and its D-League affiliate this season. Ahearn ranks seventh in the D-League in scoring at 22.8 points per game and is averaging 5.8 assists while shooting 44.5 percent from the three-point line, 44.7 percent from the field and 94.8 percent from the free throw line.
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