Jan 15, 2017; Sacramento, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Domantas Sabonis (3) with his arm around forward Andre Roberson (21) as a time out is called against the Sacramento Kings during the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center. The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Sacramento Kings 122-118. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
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The Oklahoma City Thunder are built on a foundation of athleticism and explosiveness. Who could be available to provide the perimeter shooting they so desperately need?
During his tenure, Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti has stayed consistent in that he’s preferred bouncy players with impressive wingspans over spot-up shooters who work best off the ball.
This trend dates back to acquiring the draft rights of Jeff Green in the blockbuster trade that in which the Seattle SuperSonics sent Ray Allen to Boston and continues all the way to this summer by trading for Victor Oladipo and acquiring Jerami Grant a week into this season.
However, the scales can only be tipped so far in style before a team becomes one-dimensional. It seems that the Thunder have arrived at that point, especially with rim murderer Russell Westbrook desperate for driving lanes to commit more basketball homicides.
The Thunder rank next to last in 3-point percentage this season, with no players better than 38 percent from 3. Andre Roberson, a stout defender and stellar find by Presti that was a 2013 draft night acquisition, is shooting 25 percent from 3 while playing 30 minutes per game.
Oladipo is shooting 37 percent from 3 this season, a career high for him. Anthony Morrow, a career 41 percent 3-point shooter, is shooting 29 percent this year, taking away the one NBA-level skill he has.
Thirsty for any floor spacing, the Thunder have converted rookie Domantas Sabonis into a stretch 4, and he’s performed relatively well.
With a wing who commands attention from the defense while not compromising the Thunder’s scheme, Oklahoma City could vault into that second tier of West contenders alongside the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers. Who could be available, and at what price?
Jan 6, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers forward C.J. Miles (0) shoots a three pointer over Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo (5) during the second half at Amway Center. Indiana defeated Orlando 95-86. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
C.J. Miles, a career 36 percent shooter from 3, is shooting a career-high 41 percent this year for the Indiana Pacers on five attempts per game, and is playing 22 minutes a night among a crowded backcourt in Indiana.
The 6-foot-6 wing would fit nicely in a complimentary role alongside Westbrook and Oladipo, with the flexibility to play multiple positions depending on the night.
So, what trade could get Miles to Oklahoma City?
Thunder get SF, C.J. Miles
Pacers get C, Joffrey Lauvergne
The Pacers are in desperate need of backup big minutes, and their backcourt is crowded. Both players are on cheap salaries, with Lauvergne’s contract expiring at the end of the year and Miles having a player option for 2017-18.
Taking a flier on each of these players makes sense for both teams, as it fills a need for teams trying to make playoff pushes and are low-risk.
The Kanter injury does complicate things for Oklahoma City, as Lauvergne will likely be pressed into duty more so now, but Singler and Grant are still ahead of Lauvergne in the rotation and the Thunder still have original SuperSonic Nick Collison.
Miles would almost certainly get better looks in Oklahoma City as well with the nuclear drives of Westbrook working to his advantage.
Apr 10, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton (5) dribbles the ball in the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
A contender for Sixth Man Of The Year last season, Will Barton broke out with the Denver Nuggets last season, and has followed up nicely on that campaign. He’s missed 13 games this season, but looks to be over those lingering injuries now.
He’s averaging 13.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3 assists in 28 minutes per game. Barton is also converting a career high 41 percent from deep on 3.3 attempts per game.
Thunder get PG, Jameer Nelson SG, Will Barton
Nuggets get PG, Cameron Payne SF, Andre Roberson
Keep in mind many of those attempts are also with bench units where he’s the primary option, making his potential alongside Westbrook and Oladipo skyrocket as a shooter.
Thunder fans may be cautious to part with Roberson and Payne, but they would both likely be a necessary evil to obtain Barton, a 26-year-old growing into his potential. Nelson is thrown in to ensure the ship is steadied while Westbrook gets a breather and is a serviceable stopgap.
The Thunder used D.J. Augustin in a similar role past years.
Payne is a young guard with potential who needs the ball in his hands. The jury is still out on Emmanual Mudiay, so with Payne the Nuggets have another young guard that could develop into something.
Roberson provides Denver badly needed perimeter defense, and they could compensate for his lack of shooting much better than Oklahoma City has been able to.
Nov 10, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Young (0) celebrates after a play against the Sacramento Kings during the second half at Golden 1 Center. The Lakers won the game 101-91. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
That’s right, Swaggy P! Nick Young is quietly having his best season behind the 3-point line of his career, shooting 42 percent on 6.9 attempts per game. The Los Angeles Lakers would likely be willing to part with Young despite his stellar play because of their budding nucleus of young talent.
Young is having far and away his efficient most season, shooting a career high effective field goal percentage and has played in 44 games after only playing 54 last season.
Can you imagine a perimeter of Westbrook, Oladipo and Nick Young? Imagine those pre-game dance routines and 3-ball celebrations. Throw Steven Adams in, no doubt that it’d be a fun team.
Thunder get C Tarik Black SG Nick Young
Lakers get SF Andre Roberson PF Nick Collison
The Lakers free up about $6 million in cap space while gaining the perimeter stopper that they badly need and a dependable locker room mentor for those young fellas.
The Lakers get a sharpshooter in the midst of a career year on a cheap contract and a big body to eat up 12-15 minutes a night that Kanter has left in his wake.
If the Swaggy P experiment doesn’t work, he has a player option at the end of the year, but something tells me he’ll like playing with Russy thanks to the open shots he’ll get.
Young is another option to platoon to a bench role when needed, as he certainly can ignite a bench unit. How weird is it we’re discussing Nick Young now as a difference maker on a potential playoff team?
Feb 5, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert (4) during the second half at Quicken Loans Arena. The Celtics won 104-103. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Shumpert has been one of the more polarizing role players in the NBA during his career, as some think that he’s still piecing it together while others think he flat out stinks and benefits from playing with LeBron James.
He’s guarded the likes of Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan and many of the league’s best players in May and June and he’s stepped up nicely in the absence of J.R. Smith.
Thunder get SG, Iman Shumpert PG, Kay Felder
Cavaliers get PG, Cameron Payne SG, Anthony Morrow
James has made it known these last couple of weeks that the Cleveland Cavaliers need a playmaker. Cameron Payne has shown flashes of being a starting-level point guard, but will never get the full opportunity he needs playing behind Russell Westbrook.