By far the biggest midseason acquisition for the Oklahoma City Thunder will be Russell Westbrook, who could return as soon as February 20, per Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. It's hard to imagine any trade having a bigger impact than that.
Still, even the Thunder have a few weaknesses to address, and according to Wojnarowski they're actively looking to do just that.
Armed with trade exceptions, OKC has been active in search for a shooter to fortify them for title run, league sources tell Yahoo.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 13, 2014
To be exact, the Thunder are shopping more for a two-way wing player than simply a shooter.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 14, 2014
As a team, the Thunder are shooting 36 percent from three, exactly the league average. But Kevin Durant is the team's only elite shooter (though Derek Fisher has been blistering since January), and OKC has very real problems hitting from the corners. The Thunder are shooting just 33 percent on corner threes this season, one of the five worst marks in the league, per NBA.com.
That's the kind of thing that can catch up to even the best of teams, especially when defenses really start to tighten up in the playoffs. If OKC is able to fix its shooting problems at the deadline, it might just be the odds-on favorite to win this year's championship. Here's a look at a few players the Thunder could target:
A Wing Shooter
For the sake of space, we're lumping a bunch of players together. As Daily Thunder's Royce Young recently pointed out, there are a few cheap wing shooters on the market, and if the Thunder make any move at all, it would likely be to send a low pick or two out for one of them.
The three best candidates are probably Jodie Meeks, Mike Dunleavy and C.J. Miles, all of whom are decent two-way players suiting up for teams that don't have a realistic shot at a title any time soon. All three guys are shooting around 40 percent from deep on the season, and a huge chunk of their scoring comes from spotting up or running off screens, per Synergy Sports Technology (subscription required).
Meeks and Miles would both fit into Eric Maynor's soon-to-expire $2.3 million trade exception, per ShamSports.com, and getting Dunleavy wouldn't put the Thunder into the tax so long as they were willing to part ways with Hasheem Thabeet.
It's hard to say what kind of minutes any of these guys would get, but even if they were just used situationally—as Daequan Cook was in his stint with OKC—it would make for a much more dangerous Thunder team.
Jimmer Fredette is excluded from the previous category because he's both a point guard and a dreadful defender. But as he recently reminded the New York Knicks, he's also a very good shooter. Fredette is relatively cheap, and his deal only runs through this season, per ShamSports.com, making him a solid candidate to address the Thunder's shooting issues.
Fredette is shooting 49 percent from three on the year (though it's worth pointing out he's taken only 73 shots from deep) and ranks as the second-most efficient spot-up shooter in the league, per Synergy Sports Technology. He's also a killer from the corners, which, as mentioned before, is important for the Thunder.
OKC's poor shooting from the corners hasn't been a real problem thus far, but it could be down the road, especially (and this is looking way ahead) if they end up meeting the Miami Heat in a Finals rematch. The Heat's trapping defense forces a lot of turnovers, but it also gives up open corner threes at a high rate, and being able to capitalize on that is the key to beating them.
With the Thunder, Fredette would have to do little more than sit in the corner and knock down any open shot that comes his way. Of course, that's not to say Fredette isn't capable of more—he's been surprisingly good at creating his own offense out of the pick-and-roll this season and has made strides as a passer (though he turns the ball over quite a bit).
OKC already has some good off-the-bench playmakers in Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb, but obviously adding another would be nothing but good. Fredette isn't a perfect fit—he's a huge minus on the defensive end, and he's sometimes a bit too gung ho about shooting (see below).
Still, the Thunder could acquire Fredette for next to nothing, and the guy can really hit from deep. It'd be a low-risk move that could pay real dividends down the road.
According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the Philadelphia 76ers are fishing for a first-round pick in exchange for Spencer Hawes, whose $6.6 million contract expires after this season, per ShamSports.com. The Thunder are one of the few contenders with picks to spare, and Hawes would be a great fit in OKC.
Hawes is a versatile offensive big, and he'd go a long way toward making an already deadly Thunder offense even deadlier. Kendrick Perkins has a great defensive reputation, but he's nowhere near the defender he once was, and his utter lack of production on the other end has a ripple effect on the entire OKC offense. Defenses will often blatantly ignore Perkins and opt to overload the strong side, making it borderline impossible to drive to the basket.
Teams can't treat Hawes like that. Hawes is hitting 40 percent from deep and is a respectable shooter from just about everywhere on the floor (though he's only a so-so finisher at the rim, per NBA.com). He's an excellent passer who can initiate a lot of offense from the high post if necessary, and the Thunder could use him run a lot of the same two-man stuff they do with Nick Collison.
Hawes has also become quite good at dropping back for sneaky threes out of pick-and-roll sets, something that would be particularly devastating with Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook handling the ball. Hawes isn't a great defender, but he's not terrible, and Serge Ibaka has a habit of making up for a lot of players' defensive shortcomings.
Sam Presti may not be interested in giving up a first-round pick for a rental, but Hawes would be a great addition.
A potential trade for Arron Afflalo was recently floated out by Grantland's Bill Simmons, and while it wouldn't quite be an under-the-radar move, it's certainly interesting enough to merit talking about.
Simmons' proposed trade would send Lamb, Perkins and a first-round pick to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Afflalo, and while OKC would hate to give all that up (particularly Lamb, who's been very good this year), Afflalo would be a fantastic off-the-bench spark.
Afflalo is averaging an efficient 19 points, four rebounds and four assists per game and is hitting nearly 43 percent from downtown. Like Fredette, Afflalo has been scorching from the corners this season, per NBA.com, but unlike Fredette, he can do just about everything else offensively too.
Afflalo's developed a nice off-the-bounce game, and he's drawing a ton of fouls when he attacks the basket this season. Perhaps even more intriguing for the Thunder is his ability to score down low—he's shooting 51 percent on post-ups this season, and they make up a solid chunk of his offense, per Synergy Sports Technology.
The oft-repeated idea that the Thunder need a post-scoring big to be a complete offensive team is silly—Durant's fantastic on the block, and OKC takes and makes a ton of shots at the rim, per NBA.com.
But at times, opposing teams are able to throw their best perimeter defender on Westbrook and hide their big defensive minuses (think Damian Lillard or Isaiah Thomas) on Thabo Sefolosha or Lamb without being punished for it. Afflalo would fix that in a big way, and you'd be hard-pressed to put together a more dynamic lineup than something like Jackson-Westbrook-Afflalo-Durant-Ibaka.
Despite his reputation, Afflalo's not a great defender—you actually have to go back to the 2009-10 season to find a year his team is better defensively with him on the court, per 82games.com. He's serviceable though, and would look a lot better alongside Durant and Ibaka than he does with the Magic.
According to Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler, the Magic see Afflalo as a true building block, but OKC has a lot of assets and might be able to swing a deal. Trading for Afflalo would be a radical move for the Thunder—getting rid of Perkins would almost necessitate a Heat-like reliance on small ball—but it would make them an easy title favorite this year.
All statistics accurate as of 2/15/2014 and courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless specifically stated otherwise.
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