Assets and flexibility.
Flexibility and assets.
They seem to go hand in hand these days in the NBA.
But for the past five seasons, the Thunder franchise has established a lifeline on the backs of those two buzzwords.
So what are they, what do they mean?
An asset can be a player, draft pick, trade exception or cold hard cash. Flexibility generally refers to salary cap space, both in the short and long term, shorter player contracts and, yes, more draft picks.
On Saturday, the Thunder hauled in a wheelbarrow of more assets and flexibility after sending James Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and three draft picks.
Before you can understand how those additions can benefit the Thunder, you must first understand exactly what they are.
Martin is a potent wing scorer with a reputation for efficiency, and Lamb is a 2012 lottery pick projected to have a bright future. But more on them shortly. Let's breakdown the picks.
The Rockets sent OKC a protected first-round pick via Toronto. The “protection” allows the Raptors to keep the pick — which they sent to Houston to acquire Kyle Lowry — if it's 1-3 or 15-30 in 2013. If the Raptors keep it, it rolls over and is protected from 1-2 and 15-30 in 2014 and in 2015 only the top selection and 15-30 would be protected.
The Rockets also sent the Thunder a top-20 protected pick via Dallas. This one is much simpler. If the Mavs draft 21-30 anytime from 2013 through 2017, they must convey their selection to the Thunder. Houston got the pick in the Derek Fisher trade with the Lakers. L.A. got the pick when the Mavs acquired Lamar Odom.
Lastly, the Thunder will receive Charlotte's 2013 second-round pick, a selection that for a time belonged to the Thunder but was conveyed to Boston as compensation for the Jeff Green trade dispute. The Celtics sent the pick to Houston to acquire Courtney Lee.
Martin is on an expiring contract, which teams covet when looking to shed salary in trades. And the draft picks, potentially three in the top 31, make for attractive trade bait.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti has built OKC into a power by carefully utilizing the exact same type of parts he netted for Harden.
It's why the Thunder's future looks as bright as ever, even if the present might appear a little murky.