A few bargains could soon become available as NBA teams begin to reach buyout agreements with players throughout the league this week.
The question is will the Oklahoma City Thunder be interested?
Some of the most intriguing names that potentially will be available include New Orleans center Chris Kaman, Boston center Jermaine O'Neal and Charlotte forward Boris Diaw. The Nuggets already have bought out big man Ronny Turiaf.
All are veteran big men who could provide big boosts to either the Thunder's interior scoring or defensive rebounding, or in some cases both.
But the most intriguing name that will be available by far is Derek Fisher, the veteran point guard who was unexpectedly dealt from the Los Angeles Lakers to Houston at the trade deadline. Fisher and the Rockets are in the process of finalizing a buyout and, once completed, Fisher will be an unrestricted free agent.
Thanks to the NBA finally closing a loophole that for years had allowed players to re-sign with the team that had traded them after only 30 days, Fisher can't return to the Lakers. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, Fisher must wait until July 1 to re-sign with the Lakers, which means if he wants to play this season he'd have to sign elsewhere. And according to reports, the 37-year-old is interested in signing with a contender and continuing his career.
That puts the Thunder right in the mix.
Miami, Chicago and San Antonio would be natural destinations as well, and all four could use Fisher.
The Heat, like the Thunder, have a rookie, Norris Cole, manning its backup point guard spot. The Bulls have the most stability with C.J. Watson and former Oklahoma State guard John Lucas III behind Derrick Rose. But Chicago seems to be searching to bolster that trio, as evidenced by its fling with veteran journeyman Mike James during a recent rash of injuries. The Spurs, meanwhile, just lost T.J. Ford to retirement after yet another injury. To replace him, San Antonio is reportedly set to sign Patty Mills, a promising young guard albeit one with just 74 career games under his belt.
Dallas and Orlando could be darkhorse candidates for Fisher. And don't forget about that other team in Los Angeles, the Clippers. Fisher wouldn't have to uproot and just might be able to go farther with the Lakers' co-tenant at Staples Center.
But the Thunder should absolutely make a run at Fisher.
For 3 1/2 seasons, Oklahoma City has opted to grow organically, to build through the draft and develop from within. But now that a championship is within reach this season, it should be a no-brainer for the Thunder to take a one-year flier on Fisher.
The Thunder's roster is at the maximum of 15 players, meaning someone would have to be waived before Fisher could come to town. That player likely would be forward Ryan Reid. But the Thunder would have a good chance at assigning Reid to the Tulsa 66ers and allowing him to remain close to the organization.
If anybody is worth it, Fisher is.
For 15 seasons, Fisher has given his teams toughness, durability, clutch shooting, lockdown defense and first-rate leadership and professionalism. The Thunder could use every one of those traits now and when the playoffs start in the near future.
Rookie backup Reggie Jackson would have to take a backseat for the time being. But learning from Fisher for the final 20 games and the postseason wouldn't be a bad thing. In fact, it'd be a bonus.
The only question is whether Fisher would accept a minimal role in Oklahoma City. With the Lakers, Fisher averaged 25.6 minutes. In OKC, he would be hard-pressed to get more than 15 a night.
Fortunately for the Thunder, that seemingly would be Fisher's fate on any contender.
Also, no other contender could offer more money than the Thunder. Like the Thunder, every other contender is over the salary cap, meaning the most any contending team could offer Fisher would be the prorated veteran's minimum of $1.39 million.
With Russell Westbrook, Jackson, Royal Ivey and James Harden, the Thunder has plenty of ball-handlers and playmakers to compete for a championship. The backup point guard position is not nearly as much of an issue as some make it out to be.
But with an unexpected chance to add Fisher, the Thunder is staring at a golden opportunity that just seems too good to pass up.