Oklahoma City has struggled to begin the 2017-18 season. While they have been dominant in wins, the Thunder are just 7-8 through the first 15 games despite the health of stars Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and Steven Adams.
According to Basketball Reference¹, the Thunder should mathematically be 10-5 based on their season total of points scored and allowed. While Oklahoma City has blown out certain .500+ teams like New York (105-84,) Milwaukee (110-91,) and made it through two three-game road trips, a team as talented as the Thunder should not be losing to Portland or Sacramento.
A factor in their inability to close games has been three point shooting. The Thunder have been shooting threes at a high attempt rate (11th,) but have only been 21st at converting their attempts (percentage.)
Because of the lack of spacing, Oklahoma City is also only 22nd in field goal percentage as well despite the presence of three high level scorers and Steven Adams – who is shooting 66% from the field this season.
Below are some trades which could help the Thunder by giving them some floor spacers and perimeter shooters:
Andre Roberson for Kyle Korver, 2020 2nd Round Pick
Kyle Korver is one of the best shooters of all-time. He shoots 43.1% from three from behind the arc for his career and is 43.6% this season. At 6’7″, Korver is a perfect fit in the back court alongside Russell Westbrook, and his shooting and off the ball play would really open things up for Oklahoma City offensively.
The Cavs might be hesitant to give up Korver for a worse shooter like Roberson, but Andre Roberson would really help Cleveland out defensively. Cleveland’s offense is 4th best in the league – they do not need help on that end of the court.
Defensively, Cleveland is last in overall efficiency, last in opponent three pointers made, and bottom five in nearly all opponent shooting categories – even with LeBron James playing 38.6 minutes per game so far. Roberson would really help out this team’s defense.
Andre Roberson, Alex Abrines, Kyle Singler, Raymond Felton for Wesley Matthews, Devin Harris, J.J. Barea
Wesley Matthews is 31, J.J. Barea is 33, and Devin Harris is 34. These guys have no business playing for a now 3-14 Dallas Mavericks team that would much rather give run to its youngsters like Dennis Smith Jr. and Yogi Ferrell in the back court. Those players could contribute towards a championship effort on OKC.
Matthews, Harris, and Barea are averaging a combined 30.9 points per game on 5.3 threes per game. The back court fire power OKC would have with Matthews alongside Westbrook as the starting guards, and Harris and Barea coming off the bench would be excellent.
Roberson, as a raw 26 year old, fits Dallas’ timeline way better. Rick Carlisle has helped many raw athletes develop their jumpshots over the course of their careers. Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Metta World Peace all come to mind.
Abrines and Singler have been in the professional basketball world long enough to provide a stedy presence as well, while Raymond Felton played for Dallas a few seasons back and was an important role player for their playoff efforts.
Belinelli and Babbitt are shooters who have been on fire this season from three. The Hawks have not followed suit with these individuals’ successes because of their current state as tankers, so Atlanta would absolutely trade those guys for some young talent. Belinelli and Babbitt are currently averaging a combined 4.1 three pointers per game on 9.3 attempts (44%.)
Abrines (24) and Huestis (26) are young and fresh enough to meet Atlanta’s timeline. They also will fill a position of future need when Kent Bazemore is turned into a younger asset by the rebuilding Hawks.
Andre Roberson, Alex Abrines, Kyle Singler for Robin Lopez, Nikola Mirotic, Quincy Pondexter
Chicago is in the same place as Atlanta: a team that made the playoffs for many years in a row, but now finds themselves tanking for a shot at top incoming talent. This trade differs in that while Babbitt and Bellineli are playing at a high level now, Pondexter and Mirotic are both recovering from injuries.
Pondexter was an excellent rotation wing a few seasons ago, but missed both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 campaigns due to injury. From 2012 to 2015, Pondexter shot 37.7% from behind the arc on almost three attempts per game off the bench. He makes for an excellent buy-low wing right now.
Mirotic has had consistency issues through his career, but to be fair, he has also had issues receiving consistent minutes, being played at the same position from one night to the next, and overall consistency from coaching and management.
Robin Lopez is a veteran center who should be playing for a winning team, but is averaging 13.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. With both Lopez and Adams, the Thunder would own one of the best center rotations in the league.
Andre Roberson, Alex Abrines, Kyle Singler, Raymond Felton, 2020 2nd Round Pick, 2021 2nd Round Pick for Al Jefferson, Cory Joseph, Bojan Bogdanovic
Indiana is not built for the long term. Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, Bojan Bogdanovic, Al Jefferson, and Thaddeus Young are all win-now rotational pieces forced into playing bigger roles for a depleted Pacers team. When given the chance to acquire a younger asset like Roberson, Indiana must take it.
This trade nets Oklahoma City three high quality role players at different positions. Bogdanovic is averaging 14.3 points on 51.7% shooting and 46.4% from three. He would really help out this team’s offensive efficiency from the wing position.
Cory Joseph is one of the best back up guards in the league. He has experience playing for a champion back when he was with San Antonio, and Joseph was given high amounts of minutes during Toronto’s playoff runs the past few seasons. He’s currently averaging 8.7 points on 50% from three.
Al Jefferson is a former star in this league. From 2006 to 2015, he averaged 19.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game on 49.8% shooting. Now, Jefferson is too much of a liability defensively to play large amounts of minutes, but he is averaging 18.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and 1.3 steals in a reserve role this year. Oklahoma City needs a microwave type player since Enes Kanter was traded this offseason – Jefferson can be that guy.
Kyle Singler, Alex Abrines, 2020 1st Round Pick for Patrick Beverley, Willie Reed
Los Angeles is now getting exposed as a hopeless team in the post-Chris Paul era. Los Angeles is now the losers of eight straight, and one will wonder how much longer Doc Rivers will persist with this roster.
Patrick Beverley is a defensive ace in the back court who is having an offensive surge this season. Beverley is averaging 12.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.9 steals per game this season while shooting 39.6% from three. Put him in the backcourt with Russell Westbrook, and Oklahoma City has a guard combination that would produce similar levels of effectiveness as the Harden-Beverley back court in Houston the last few seasons.
Reed has emerged as a sound option at back-up center. He will never start at the position long term for one team, but has the highest win share rate (.229 per 48 minutes) of any Clipper. The 133 offensive rating Reed has produced is very impressive, and would help the Thunder bench considerably.
Andre Roberson, Alex Abrines, Kyle Singler for Tyson Chandler, Jared Dudley
Phoenix has these veterans like Tyson Chandler, Jared Dudley, and Brandon Knight. They also have Alex Len, T.J. Warren, and Tyler Ulis all being given minutes in favor of their youth for the rebuilding Suns. Consider the veterans up for sale.
Chandler, although 35, is still an excellently efficient player. He’s averaging 7.0 points and 9.5 rebounds per game on 62.1% shooting, and the Suns are 9.8 points per 100 possessions better with Chandler on the court.
Dudley has been given limited run this season in favor of Phoenix’ youth, but has delivered in the five games he’s played with 58.3% shooting, 57.1% from three, and a 129 offensive rating. Those numbers are unsustainable, but Dudley is still a reliable marksman with a 39.7% career mark from downtown.
Andre Roberson, Alex Abrines, Kyle Singler for George Hill, Kosta Koufos
George Hill signing with Sacramento was very confusing. Hill is coming off a season in which he helped lead Utah to 51 wins and a Conference Semi-finals appearance behind 16.9 points per game and 40.3% shooting from three. Hill has no business playing for the West’s 2nd worst team, and would thrive alongside Russell Westbrook in the back court.
Similarly, Koufos has no business playing for the Kings. Kosta Koufos would significantly bolster the Thunder’s front court depth. Koufos is averaging 5.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game on 56.5% shooting and 20.0 minutes per game. Koufos has actually led Sacramento in win shares this season, with 0.8 (.113 per 48 minutes) thus far.
¹ – Pythagorean Wins; the formula is G * (Tm PTS14 / (Tm PTS14 + Opp PTS14)). The formula was obtained by fitting a logistic regression model with log(Tm PTS / Opp PTS) as the explanatory variable. Using this formula for all BAA, NBA, and ABA seasons, the root mean-square error (rmse) is 3.14 wins. Using an exponent of 16.5 (a common choice), the rmse is 3.48 wins.