The two most valuable trade chips the Thunder possess present quite the pickle for Oklahoma City as today’s 2 p.m. trade deadline nears. But what a great position it is for the Thunder to be in.
With a stable of ever-improving young players who already are exceeding expectations, it’s the expiring contracts of Etan Thomas and Matt Harpring that figure to be at the center of any deal the Thunder consummates. Together, Thomas and Harpring earn slightly more than $13.8 million. That’s a high enough figure that typically leads to a lopsided deal this time of the year as a handful of teams go into cost-cutting mode. Over the weekend, Dallas used the expiring contracts of Drew Gooden and the increasingly ineffective Josh Howard to lure Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson away from Washington. On Wednesday, Cleveland bolstered its pursuit of a title by plucking away Antawn Jamison from Washington in a three-team deal in which the Cavs needed only to part with Zydrunas Ilgauskas and a first-round pick that likely will be the 29th or 30th overall selection. With Thomas and Harpring, similar deals for, say, Phoenix’s Amar’e Stoudemire or Utah’s Carlos Boozer, could be available to the Thunder. But Oklahoma City’s front office hasn’t shown any interest in making a move of such magnitude. Multiple league sources said the Thunder is expected to stand pat this year, instead remaining committed to its long-term philosophy of allowing its young team to grow together. But the question becomes, is that the right way to go? Is it better for the Thunder to package its expiring contracts in an attempt to add more talent, or hold onto the two and let them come off the books in July? The answer will be determined by the amount of incoming value general manager Sam Presti thinks he can land. And for the Thunder, the term value now holds more meaning than the typical low-risk, high reward moves the team has mastered over the past few seasons. Any deal for Harpring and/or Thomas means the Thunder would need to take back nearly the same dollar figure, because only three teams are under the salary cap and neither Memphis, New Jersey nor Sacramento is far enough under to take back an unbalanced amount.
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