The Oklahoma City Thunder have made things easier for Russell Westbrook for the remainder of the 2016-2017 season.
Oklahoma City has acquired forwards Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson, and a 2018 second-round draft pick from the Chicago Bulls in-exchange for Cameron Payne, Anthony Morrow, and Joffrey Lauvergne in a trade that was first reported by The Vertical and confirmed by the NBA shortly following.
This trade gives the Thunder help on the wing as far as scoring goes, as Andre Roberson provides them with strong defense every night, but also comes with the baggage of having a limited offense game. McDermott is averaging a career-high 10.2 points per game this season.
“I think that we’re a better team this evening than we were this morning because I think we were able to add some things to help our teams in terms of the collective, the aggregate,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti told reporters earlier on Thursday.“How much? I don’t know how to answer that. We have to see how we play.”
As far as Chicago’s rotation goes under head coach Fred Hoiberg is concerned, Bobby Portis will see an increased role, while 2016 first-round draft pick Denzel Valentine and forward Paul Zipser will also now join the rotation with a more significant role than ever before.
Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, and Jimmy Butler are all still with the Bulls, but it looks like the Bulls are looking to see a lot out of their young players before the end of the season to help them out with personnel decisions this off-season. Butler will be with the Bulls long-term, but Wade has a player option for the 2017-2018 season, and Rondo’s contract for next season is not yet fully guaranteed.
The Thunder are expected to get big man Enes Kanter back from a hand injury tomorrow against the Los Angeles Lakers, which means he will go back into a bench role where he was very productive backing up Steven Adams. It is unclear where Gibson will enter the rotation at for the Thunder, but it’s very likely he will earn the starting nod for the Thunder, which will send Domantas Sabonis to a bench role.
Gibson is set to become an unrestricted free agent this off-season, while McDermott has one year left on his rookie-scale contract after this season before restricted free agency comes into the equation for the sharpshooter.
Right now, the Thunder are the 7th seed in the tough Western Conference, but are just 1.5 games back of the Memphis Grizzlies for the 6th spot. They also sit 3.5 behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the 4th seed that would give them homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Thunder head coach Billy Donovan will have his options with his starting lineup after today’s trade. His starting lineup had been Westbrook, Victor Oladipo, Roberson, Sabonis, and Adams, but could look to add McDermott in Roberson’s place if he wants more shooting in the lineup. Gibson will also be throttled to the starting lineup as mentioned above at some point, so that could mean that the new lineup could be Westbrook, Oladipo, McDermott, Gibson, Adams to give Westbrook space to generate easy assists.
Starting Roberson, Gibson, and Adams would give the Thunder limited spacing on the floor, as all are very poor three-point shooters. McDermott is shooting 37% on triples this season after shooting 42% on them last season, and Sabonis is shooting 31% from distance in his rookie season.
With Payne coming to Chicago, he joins an interesting Bulls point guard rotation that features Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams, Isaiah Cannan and Jerian Grant. It should be interesting to see how much playing time he receives with the Bulls, as his time was limited in Oklahoma City.
Morrow will likely provide Hoiberg with good minutes on the wing and used favorably because of his shooting ability, while Lauvergne stretches the floor playing in a backup role behind Robin Lopez.
While the Bulls are currently locked into a playoff spot, it sure seems like their is more commitment to player development for here on out. Chicago would currently play the Boston Celtics in the first round, a series they won’t be favored to win in.
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