Expect trades, not free agents
Major signing would jeopardize team's long-term structure

By Darnell Mayberry Published: July 7, 2008
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Th
e best available players are either too expensive (Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith, Emeka Okafor, Luol Deng, Monta Ellis, Tony Allen, Ben Gordon, Corey Maggette and Andris Biedrins) or too old (Kurt Thomas, James Posey, Sam Cassell, Brent Barry, Michael Finley and Eduardo Najera.)

Oklahoma City could take a flyer on wing players like Mickael Pietrus, Matt Barnes and Kelenna Azubuike of Golden State or Dorell Wright of Miami. Azubuike and Wright are restricted free agents, meaning their teams can match any offer to retain them.

Wright is only 22, Azubuike is 24, Pietrus is 26 and Barnes is 28. All four provide a nice blend of athleticism and versatility and none figure to cost much more than $5 million a year.

But unless Presti thinks one of them — or a similar cheap young player — can join Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook as the building blocks of the team, it's likely Presti will avoid doling out any cash for the sake of a quick fix.

A few trades seem to be a more likely approach. Forwards Chris Wilcox and Donyell Marshall, both of whom have attractive expiring contracts, could be dealt to free more minutes for Green, and guard Luke Ridnour could be packaged to create more minutes for Westbrook. Presti also has a glut of centers in Swift, Johan Petro and Mouhamed Sene, any one of whom could be traded this summer.

Look for Presti to improve Oklahoma City's roster through trades this summer, not free agency.




Luke Ridnour, right, could be traded to create more minutes for first-round draft pick Russell Westbrook. Associated Press

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