Behind all the attractive assets and the pit of possibilities, whether the Thunder decides to grab a seat at the trading table before the Feb. 24 deadline ultimately will boil down to one fundamental question.
Does the front office think now is the time to strike?
There might not be a team in the NBA in better position than the Thunder to take advantage of this year's trading season. But, depending on the extent of the deal, doing so could potentially be an all-or-nothing proposition.
The most important thing to keep in mind as the deadline approaches and the rumors start swirling is the Thunder has spent the past 3½ seasons seeking to get here — the point where it can sit comfortably as a franchise that boasts one of the league's most cost-friendly payroll structures.
Moves that were made during the franchise's final year in Seattle were done with one eye looking ahead to today. Now, as the league faces the prospects of a falling salary cap and a potential lockout, the Thunder must decide whether the time is right to pounce or if standing pat is more appropriate.
Uncertainty over what new rules in a renegotiated collective bargaining agreement could look like has pushed numerous front-office personnel to proceed with caution. The Thunder, though, has the right mix of ample young talent, future salary cap room and additional assets to broker a blockbuster.
Seven of the Thunder's 11 players who have guaranteed contracts for next season will return still on their rookie deals. The Thunder's payroll next season, including the first year of Kevin Durant's contract extension, will be roughly $40 million. That's $18 million under the current salary cap and provides plenty of room even if the cap decreases, as has been anticipated.