Chad Ford of ESPN.com reported this morning that the Thunder is seeking to trade into the top 15 of tonight’s NBA Draft and is dangling reserve point guard Eric Maynor while seeking to move up.
They’ve spoken to the Kings (No. 7) and Bobcats (No. 9) in particular in the past few days…With so few quality point guards on the board this year, would a team covet him more than Kemba Walker or Jimmer Fredette? Who are the Thunder after? Like a lot of teams, it seems they are in hot pursuit of Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas.”
It’s certainly the start of an interesting scenario. But from all my conversations, both throughout the season and leading up to tonight’s draft, it’s not happening. The Thunder loves Maynor. The team loves what he brings on the court, loves his attitude and work ethic and loves how he meshes with the roster.
Now, if some team made Thunder general manager Sam Presti an offer he couldn’t refuse, say a top five pick straight up for Maynor, then all bets are off. The Thunder doesn’t love Maynor that much. But in a weak draft that is filled with role players, is there someone in the seven to 15 range who can come in and immediately have a bigger impact than Maynor. Probably not. The Thunder loves to look long term when drafting, and I expect the organization to do the same tonight. But not since Presti began tearing down in 2007 to build up have we seen this front office sacrifice today for tomorrow. It’s possible Presti is willing to someday trade Maynor. But it’s not probable that today is that day, mainly since whatever potential deal is out there would give the Thunder a good leg up for the future but leave a gaping hole at the present day backup point guard spot.
That’s why any talk of Maynor being dealt is a little far-fetched. But here are five other reasons the Thunder isn’t likely to trade Maynor tonight.
1) Experience: Entering just his third season, Maynor already has a ton of experience. He’s 24. He was a four-year college player. He’s played in big games at both the college and pro levels, including a staggering 23 playoff games over four playoff series. In his first two NBA seasons, Maynor also has played in 163 of a possible 164 games. That experience is extremely rare for a second-year player. It takes years for players to experience what Maynor has in just two seasons. And Maynor and the Thunder are only going to be better down the line because of his experience. By trading Maynor, the Thunder would be forfeiting that potential, and as soon as it did the organization would be hard pressed to find it in someone else. It certainly wouldn’t come in a rookie (which is why you can dismiss rumors of Boston College guard Reggie Jackson being swapped in for Maynor as well).
2) Reliable: Maynor is one of the league’s steadiest reserve point guards. In the regular season, he ranked ninth in assists-per-turnover (3.09) and was 15th in assists per 48 minutes (9.5). If you think the backup point guard role is unimportant, flash back to the days when the Thunder was trotting out Chucky Atkins for a reminder on how significant a steady hand is off the bench. Maynor was so good this season that the second unit often played better than the starters. And now, Maynor’s play has some (silly as it is) believing he should be the starter and Russell Westbrook should move off the ball.
3) Fit: Maynor knows his role and, as previously stated, plays it extremely well. Never underestimate the value of having a player who does that. Maynor knows he is a capable starter, or at the very least could get more than 15 minutes a night elsewhere. But he doesn’t complain. He falls in line. There might be more talented players who could step in and fill Maynor’s shoes today. But with Westbrook leading the way, how many minutes are really there for a more talented guard? Sure, you could make the argument that another point guard could play off the ball alongside Westbrook. But keep in mind James Harden’s minutes are constantly rising, and, love them or hate them, Thabo Sefolosha and, if brought back, Daequan Cook warrant minutes as well. There are only so many minutes to go around, and Maynor has proven to be content with helping the Thunder in however many he receives.
4) Cheap: Maynor will earn just $1.5 million next season, easily making him one of the best values in the league. He’s the fourth cheapest salary on the Thunder’s payroll. So it’s not as if the Thunder has to deal Maynor to save money. And while there is some growing concern about the Thunder’s ability to retain everyone in its current core, that decision doesn’t have to be made today. Maynor is not eligible for an extension until next summer, with it not kicking in until two years from now. So there’s time. And the Thunder has planned and planned for this day, purposely passing on free agents in the past like Paul Millsap and David Lee so that there would be money in the bank for the homegrown young guns. Of course, if every one of the Thunder’s young players proves to be worthy of a big contract (unlikely) OKC has a problem. But that problem isn’t today.
5) Continuity: It seems that some need a reminder that just one month ago this Thunder roster was playing in the Western Conference Finals. The average age of the starting lineup was just 23.6 years. That average would dip to 22.4 if Harden supplants Sefolosha in the starting unit next season. The Thunder has a bright future, and one sure way to threaten that future is to have a revolving door of players coming in and out. The Thunder’s 10-man rotation is one of the best in basketball. And the plan all along has been to leave this pot to cook and patiently wait on the results. Of all times to tinker with the main ingredients, why would Presti choose this time, when the franchise was three wins shy of the NBA Finals? It doesn’t add up. That’s why when the draft gets underway tonight, it’s unlikely that Maynor or anyone from the Thunder’s rotation gets dealt.