Thunder’s offseason restraint set up a trade for Gordon Hayward

Thunder’s offseason restraint set up a trade for Gordon Hayward

The Thunder didn’t make a big splashy summer signing or trade when it had cap space. By working methodically, OKC was able to acquire him at the trade deadline.

Jon Hamm

By Jon Hamm

| Feb 15, 2024, 6:45am CST

Jon Hamm

By Jon Hamm

Feb 15, 2024, 6:45am CST

Prior to the 2023 draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder was on track to have significant cap room when the NBA’s new fiscal year began on July 1.

Approximately $30 million in spendable money would become available for the Thunder to use. It’s a chunk of cap room that can make fans think big. That’s the kind of money a team can spend to sign a proven star or pull off a lopsided blockbuster trade.

It took a few steps, but the Thunder eventually used that space to acquire what it hopes will be an impact player. OKC also picked up a few picks in the process.

Sometimes making a big trade requires several steps.

The Thunder kicked off the offseason building slowly and methodically, a couple of adjectives that rarely sit well with impatient fan bases. First, OKC traded for Davis Bertans and his $17 million salary from the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for swapping the 10th and 12th picks. This ensured that Orlando, who held the 11th pick, would not draft Cason Wallace. It also prevented another team from trading for either the 10th or 11th pick and taking Wallace before OKC could.

Oklahoma City used the rest of its space to inhale future second-round picks. Miami paid a pair of future seconds in order to unload Victor Oladipo’s contract. Houston sent three future seconds to OKC to offload Patty Mills. A few days later, OKC rerouted Mills to Atlanta in exchange for players to be waived later and a future second-round pick.

With its cap room now absorbed, OKC then signed guard Vasilije Micic using the so-called Room Exception — a tool granted to teams that create and then spend all of its cap room. 

In a final bit of offseason business, the Thunder agreed to acquire troubled Houston Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. and two future second-round picks in exchange for Oladipo and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. 

Porter, Jr., who was facing domestic abuse charges, was waived approximately four milliseconds after the trade was finalized. 

The end result of the Thunder’s bounty of cap space: Bertans, Micic, eight future second-rounders, the rights to Wallace, and a heap of dead money. All told, the Thunder spent $28 million to send Porter Jr, Rudy Gay, Usman Garuba, and TyTy Washington to the waiver wire.

Remaining in asset acquisition mode showed that OKC believed in its core. Given that the Thunder are near the top of the Western Conference at the All-Star break, the decision has proven to be wise.

But the offseason also set up the Thunder to make a big in-season move, as it did by acquiring Gordon Hayward from the Hornets at the trade deadline. 

The Thunder’s big trade deadline deal was months in the making.

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