LAS VEGAS — Sort of a crazy day out here. The Thunder made its first transaction of the off-season, and it’s one fans have long craved, seemingly by any means necessary. Oklahoma City released veteran point guard Earl Watson, making the man a free agent and finally ending his unhappy stay in Oklahoma City.
Watson has agreed to sign with Indiana but can’t until he clears waivers after seven days.
I’ll try to sum up this move quickly by providing clarity on what seems to be the biggest question of the day. Why did OKC waive Watson instead of trading him?
The answer: the Thunder couldn’t trade Earl Watson for two reasons, 1) his trade value likely wasn’t high and 2) you have to get something of value in return when you trade a player. GMs don’t just trade a player to satisfy his desires without getting something in return, even if that’s peanuts that turns into money off the books (read, expiring contracts).
Oklahoma City would have had to take back a salary if they did last season. And it’s now clear whatever offers were out there clearly didn’t appease the front office. And the Thunder is way under the cap this summer. That means two things, 1) OKC doesn’t have to match salaries in a trade for Watson and 2) any trade would mean OKC would again be seeking something of value in return. It wasn’t there.
A trade would have brought somebody that the team clearly doesn’t want, either because of his skills or because of his contract. There was no way the Thunder was going to trade Watson and take somebody with another two, three or even four years on his contract. It would have messed up the cap flexibility that’s been built. The only logical instance would have been if it were a darn good player, which Watson alone doesn’t warrant.
So the Thunder saved some money, added an additional roster spot and got rid of a potential locker room cancer. All in all, it’s not a bad day at the office. I don’t know how much the Thunder saved, but teams generally don’t do things like this unless a player makes it worth their while. And the Thunder had the upper hand because Watson was desperate to get out of OKC. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gave up half of his $6.6 million to get out of his deal. His agreement with the Pacers might be a good indicator of how much he forfeited. For example, if he signs a one-year deal worth $3.3 million, it likely means he gave up $3.3 million with the Thunder but is coming out even with his new contract with the Pacers.
As for the actual guys who are still members of the Thunder and are down here busting their tails in Vegas…..
It’s been sort of rough sledding for Oklahoma City in the NBA Summer League. The Thunder fell to 0-4 after Friday’s 80-74 loss to Chicago. Turnovers have really been an issue and the offense has looked great at times and awful at other points.
D.J. White has turned it on lately and is aiming for continued development on the defensive end of the floor. He’s not worrying about his scoring. He’s focused more on grasping defensive principles and rebounding more consistently. It’s a message that anyone who wants to play for the Thunder should take heed to.
Kyle Weaver is learning the ropes at point guard, which takes on more importance now that Watson is gone. Shaun Livingston is the only other point guard on the roster other than Westbrook, and Weaver could be looked to for emergency duty next season. It’s also not out of the question that the Thunder uses one of its roster spots to bring in a more experience point guard for spot minutes behind Westbrook.
One guy who has really impressed me has been DeVon Hardin. I love his enthusiasm, hustle and athleticism. He blocks shots, throws down alley-oops and bangs on the block for boards. That’s not to say he’s going to come in and be the interior presence the Thunder needs. Heck, the guy might not even be on the roster next season. He’s not even signed. And he’s still extremely raw. But he has a motor, and guys that have a motor are good in my book.
What does it say about James Harden that he had 20 points and five assists Friday and he’s the fourth guy I mentioned? That it’s become commonplace that’s what. Harden is impressive. I feel like a broke record saying it over and over again. It’s gotten to the point where you have to see him (in person) to believe how fundamentally sound he is, how mature his game is and how savvy of a scorer he is. Those of you who have seen him online are in for an even bigger surprise when you see him in person. Trust me.
That’s all for now.