It's a brave, new world in the NBA thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement.
While many are lamenting the absence of major moves at the trade deadline, a number of shrewd general managers—such as Oklahoma City's Sam Presti—found a way to make under-the-radar deals that have the potential to pay huge dividends in the postseason.
Case in point: OKC's deadline day trade for New York Knicks' swingman Ronnie Brewer. Two months before the playoffs, the Thunder acquired one of the league's toughest wing defenders for a 2014 second-round pick and cash considerations.
It's the type of deal that typically didn't go down in seasons past, but with roster spots at a premium (the Knicks needed to free up space in order to sign Kenyon Martin), and luxury tax concerns on every team's mind, those franchises who are relatively flexible at the trade deadline can make out like bandits.
Brewer will immediately step in and be the stopper of the Thunder's second unit for roughly 15 minutes per night, and Oklahoma City essentially got him for free. And if Thabo Sefolosha is out of the lineup for an extended period of time, Brewer can easily slide into the starting lineup without the Thunder missing a beat.
"He brings a defensive mind-set, versatility as a perimeter defender, and he comes in with over 300 games started," said Presti when asked about Brewer in an interview with Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman. "In addition to that, he's a high-character, hard-working individual that we feel like is going to fit well with our current group."
Presti wasn't finished, however. Trading Eric Maynor to the Portland Trail Blazers for a $2.2 million trade exception made sense for a number of reasons. Mainly, shedding Maynor's salary helps the Thunder avoid the dreaded luxury tax.
And speaking of luxury, that's exactly what Maynor was at the point guard spot. Westbrook averages nearly 36 minutes per night, and backup point guard Reggie Jackson clocks in at a shade under 12. So in Maynor, the Thunder traded a player whom they had no spot for in the rotation, and received in return a valuable trade exception that can be used at any point over the next 12 months.
"The trade exception essentially gives us flexibility in terms of roster building, again, to try to make additions to our core group without infringing on that group," said Presti. "We'll try to be as creative as possible, but we're also going to be very disciplined with it."
With just two minor moves, the Oklahoma City Thunder are noticeably better both on the court as well as in their financial statements. The blueprint on how to work the NBA trade deadline has been drafted, and it's sitting in the offices of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
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