His tools are keeping him in the race. As a 22-year-old big man with above average athleticism and nimble feet, Orton has more upside than Liggins. Orton also has the benefit of playing a position that historically is harder to fill. And even though he would be the fourth-string center behind Perkins, Cole Aldrich and Hasheem Thabeet, Orton could be kept solely for insurance purposes, either this season or down the line as the team faces mounting financial obligations.
In a perfect world, the Thunder would keep both. But the offseason additions of Thabeet and rookie forward Perry Jones III left OKC with only one available roster spot.
A popular idea has been to sever ties with other players, namely Lazar Hayward and Daequan Cook. But in order for the Thunder to trade one or both of those players OKC would need a taker. That means a team would have to sign on to take back salary ($3.1 million for Cook and roughly $1.1 million for Hayward) and give up something in return. Neither Cook nor Hayward have a ton of trade value, not to mention the more punitive rules in the new collective bargaining agreement have caused most teams to trim payroll rather than add to it.
It's not out of the question that the Thunder waives a player to free up another spot. But with everyone else on guaranteed contracts, the player would have to agree to a buyout (meaning he forfeits some money) and the Thunder still would be responsible for a portion of his salary. Therefore, it seems unlikely the Thunder would pay to part ways with one non-rotation player only to pay to keep another one.
This thing looks like it'll play out the old fashion way.
Cut day is coming.