What The Thunder, Rockets, and Celtics Have In Common

The NBA trade deadline has come and gone without any activity from these three teams.

Oklahoma City General Manager Sam Presti was surprisingly inactive at the NBA trade deadline, as the Thunder stood pat. Much like the Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics, the Thunder didn't make a move in large part because of the flurry of moves they already made last summer.

Interestingly enough, these three teams have multiple similarities. All three teams are on track to comfortably make the playoffs and yet none of them made a trade at the deadline. However, the Rockets and Celtics both made solid free agent additions recently. This is a path the Thunder would be wise to follow.

Rockets & Celtics Additions

Houston and Boston both revamped their rosters this past offseason with several notable additions.

Houston added multiple defensive minded players that shoot well. Led by all-star Chris Paul, the Rockets new wave also included PJ Tucker and Luc Ricard Mbah a Moute. In January, the Rockets also brought in free agent and former Celtic Gerald Green. Green has been solid for a Rockets team that was battling injuries on the wing. Green stepped up, playing big minutes on several occasions for his hometown team. 

Boston has arguably the most impactful offseason of any team in the league. The Celtics brought in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward via trade and free agency respectively. Despite Hayward’s injury on opening night, the Celtics have been the best team in the Eastern Conference, in large part due to the presence of Rookie of the Year candidate Jayson Tatum, who was drafted third overall. In a very similar fashion to the Rockets, the Celtics made a move to acquire a free agent to bolster their roster rather than give up assets in a trade. Big man Greg Monroe has joined the C’s and should play a fairly decent role in the Boston frontcourt. The trio of Monroe, Al Horford, and Aron Baynes are all capable of playing minutes at both frontcourt positions.

Imitation Is The Most Sincere Form Of Flattery 

When NBA fans talk about the biggest moves of the past offseason, the conversation usually links back to the same trio of teams. While teams like Minnesota and Cleveland were very active, it’s Boston, Houston, and OKC that stood out most of all. 

Oklahoma City made a mammoth splash when they acquired all-star Paul George from Indiana. The Thunder followed it up by snagging another all-star in the form of Carmelo Anthony. While a starting five of MVP Russell Westbrook, André Roberson, Steven Adams, George, and Anthony was doing more than fine, there was no pressure to make any additional moves. Things changed when Roberson went down with a season-ending injury last month. The Thunder starting shooting guard was one of the elite wing defenders in the league, and played a crucial role on the team. 

With Roberson out, the Thunder have a sudden need that was certainly not anticipated. The in-house replacement options are limited to Alex Abrines, Josh Heustis, and Terrance Ferguson. Each of these players brings a different skill set to the table and is capable of starting for the rest of the regular season. However, all three would likely be exposed and overmatched in a playoff series.

The Thunder know they must make the most of this season, in part so they can attempt to convince Paul George to stick around and re-sign. Needless to say, Oklahoma City will not be pleased with merely making the playoffs. The Thunder have much higher aspirations as they aim to get back to the NBA Finals for the second time as a franchise. In order to reach these lofty goals, and defeat teams like the Spurs, Rockets, and Warriors, OKC would be wise to make a move. With the NBA trade deadline in the rear-view mirror, Sam Presti must scour the free agent pool as the buyout market materializes. Much like the NFL, the NBA is a ‘copy-cat league’ at times. Certainly, Presti has seen the shrewd moves by Houston’s Daryl Morey and Boston’s Danny Ainge. The acquisitions of Gerald Green by Houston and Greg Monroe by Boston serve as reminders that the Thunder might not be done making moves after all. 

Filling A Need

While Boston, Houston, and OKC all made significant signings and swaps over the summer, the under the radar additions that may prove to play a vital role as well. Boston wanted to add size and saw a player who could do just that in Monroe. Houston needed wing depth because of unexpected injuries. Sound familiar Thunder fans? While Gerald Green isn’t on the market anymore, similar players will emerge due to being released or having their contracts bought out. 

The first guard or wing player to appear as an option is former Atlanta Hawk Marco Belinelli. Belinelli, who is known for his shooting, finalized a buyout with the Hawks and has hit the open market. While he doesn’t offer the same defensive skill set as the injured Andre Roberson, he would serve as an upgrade of the likes of Ferguson, Abrines, and Heustis. 

While GM Sam Presti and the rest of the OKC front office sort out which players to target, fans will be anxiously awaiting to see if the Thunder can improve their roster, as they try to make a deep playoff run. 

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