How OKC Thunder Can Still Upgrade Center Spot Before Next Season

Kyle Ramos@Kyle_RamosCorrespondent IJuly 17, 2013

Feb. 24, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortat (4) dunks the ball against the San Antonio Spurs in the first half at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

The further the offseason progresses, the more it seems that the Thunder want to get rid of Kendrick Perkins, and for good reason.

The good news is that the season doesn't start until late October, which means that there is still plenty of time to find someone to fill that role.

But who is out there for the Thunder to pick up? 

In terms of free agency, the short answer is: not much. As of today, the best available center would be Nikola Pekovic, but his salary demands are surely out of Oklahoma City's pretty limited price range. Behind Pek are more affordable guys like Samuel Dalembert, Timofey Mozgov and Greg Oden but even they wouldn't necessarily provide an upgrade from Kendrick Perkins.

So with the free agent possibilities pretty much exhausted, perhaps the Thunder could turn to rookie Steven Adams? While tempting, this is another option that would simply fizzle out since Adams' game is just too raw for him to be thrown into big minutes so quickly.

This leaves Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti with two essential choices: stick it out with Perkins or look to make a trade before the season starts. Based on the drafting of Adams and Perkins' awful play as of late, I'm thinking that Presti may opt for the latter.

Like a lot of things in professional sports, though, trading Perkins is something that falls under the classic category of "easier said than done."

On top of his plummeting value due to his latest postseason performance, Perkins also carries a hefty salary with him, making it tough to match up numbers with teams that would even want him in the first place.

Even so, I did what any good armchair general manager would do and I popped open ESPN's NBA Trade Machine to see what kind of deals could work out. It's also worth noting that this machine doesn't factor in basic things that most good GMs would consider like sentimental value, common sense or fairness.

With that being said, let's take a look at one deal that could end up working well for both the Thunder and the Phoenix Suns.

If there was a possible, yet temporary fix for the Thunder, it could be this one. Marcin Gortat, who was linked to the Thunder in trade rumors by Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic earlier in the year, has an expiring contract which makes it tempting for the Suns to get something in return to help with their rebuilding project.

Gortat would work well for Oklahoma City's lineup, since he rebounds well (averaged 8.7 per game over the last three seasons) and has proven he can score in the post. Though he is coming off of a season-ending foot injury, Gortat has been fairly good about staying healthy, which would be a breath of fresh air for the Thunder.

Additionally, getting Kendall Marshall, who has been reportedly put on the trade block per's Scott Howard Cooper, would soften the blow of losing Reggie Jackson. Marshall's high basketball IQ and pass-first mentality would also be a great addition for OKC, who could use a change-of-pace type of point guard that could mesh with either the first or second unit on the court.

The upside for the Suns is also there. Perkins would provide a veteran presence on a young team and could even work with Phoenix rookie Alex Len on refining his defensive game, while also toughening him up for the NBA competition. Meanwhile, Alex Abrines could be brought in from Spain at the Suns discretion and has the potential to become a solid contributor at the shooting guard spot.

While this deal works in the trade machine, we still have to factor in whether or not Phoenix would accept an offer like this. Sure, they'd be able to get some value from an expiring deal, but it'd also mean taking on Perkins' large contract in the process. Also, even though Jackson would be a great pickup, it would also create a logjam at the point guard spot with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic also on the roster.

Taking this into consideration, I revised the deal a bit to include the Milwaukee Bucksa team that may be in desperate need of a point guard since things with Brandon Jennings seem to be heading south

With this adjustment (assuming Milwaukee throws in something along the lines of a future first round pick), would help the Suns unload Dragic's salary and open up room for a Bledsoe-Jackson tandem at point guard.

This trade would work out wonderfully for Oklahoma City, even if they had to give up the budding talent of Reggie Jackson, and could buy enough developmental time for Steven Adams as well. 

Also, it would be much more beneficial to move Perkins sooner rather than later in order to work in any new players coming in and familiarizing them with the team's systems. 

As I stated earlier, though, wanting to trade Perk and actually trading Perk are still two very different things. It won't be easy to find a team willing to take him, let alone a team that can afford to pay him as well. 

It's reached the point for the Thunder that they may need to trade away the player that was once thought to give them a championship edge in order to actually gain just that.