In one of the more chaotic trade deadlines in recent NBA memory, the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that wasn’t expected to do much, was active by trimming some fat from the roster.
Initially, veteran center Mike Muscala was sent off to the Boston Celtics, where he could immediately compete for a championship, while the Thunder received Justin Jackson and two second-round picks (2023, 2029) in return.
OKC will add the two picks to their treasure chest of draft capital while likely waiving Jackson, providing an open roster spot.
That was a big surprise to Thunder fans, as no one, including any of the team’s media, saw this coming.
The trade that almost everyone expected was Darius Bazley being sent off to the Phoenix Suns for Dario Saric. The writing was on the wall for Baze when the Thunder declined to offer him a contract extension last summer.
Baze played 15.4 minutes per game and averaged 5.4 points, and 3.4 rebounds per game, all three career lows.
This is a win for both parties — Bazely gets a change of scenery and an opportunity to spread his wings with Chris Paul, the point guard from his rookie season in OKC.
In return, OKC will receive Saric, a big man with a hybrid Bazley and Muscala playing style, who averages 5.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game.
For the casual fan, I know this is another “out of left field” trade in many people’s eyes. Yes, Bazley was OKC’s longest-tenured player at only 22 years old. While the Thunder is on the cusp of contending for a play-in spot, just 0.5 games out of 10th place in the Western Conference, with their next matchup coming against the team that’s ahead of them — the Portland Trail Blazers, the Thunder are still looking to develop their young talent and position themselves for sustained future success, not just a quick championship this year or next.
The Thunder are headed down an optimistic road. As beloved as Muscala and Bazley are in OKC, these trades aren’t changing the trajectory of OKC’s immediate future. If the Thunder are destined for the playoffs this season, they’ll still make it. These two trades will be less than a sidebar in a future championship run.
The point is OKC had an active trade deadline that further helped form this team for the future, developing fellow youthful big men, Ousmane Dieng, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and Jaylin Williams, who have all shown promise while OKC is currently 26-28 on the year.