As of now, the Oklahoma City Thunder are currently the seventh seed in the Western Conference, despite Russell Westbrook’s historic season. OKC clearly must make moves if they hope to become a true contender this year. There is one move that could catapult the Thunder to being one of the two favorites in the Western Conference.
First, we must identify the problem. Westbrook currently leads the team in points, assists, rebounds and steals. The issue is not that he is leading four of the five major categories, but rather the amount he is leading the categories by. The difference between Russ and the next highest scorer is 15.2 points per game. For assists, the difference is 7.5 and 2.9 for rebounds. If someone were to average 15-8-3, then they would be considered one of the top role players in the league. For perspective, Derrick Rose is averaging 17.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg and 4.5 apg.
So to sum it up, the problem is that Westbrook is basically pulling a Michael Jordan from Space Jam and is stuck playing on “Moron Mountain”. The guy needs help and I think a deadly shooter would punch the WCF ticket for the Thunder. Who is this deadly shooter though?
This trade would immensely improve both teams and from a financial standpoint, Klay and Kanter have identical contracts, so there would be no issue with this move. I understand that at a first look it seems ridiculous, but let me break this down from the perspectives of both teams for you.
Losing Kanter would definitely go noticed, but the benefits from Klay would be more than worth it. Klay Thompson is the best shooter in the NBA and potentially the greatest of all-time. He is the perfect backcourt player due to his ability to shoot, play defense and cut to the basket. The addition of Klay would allow Victor Oladipo to put a bigger emphasis on defense, while it would also lighten the load for points scored by Russ. Steven Adams showed that he is capable of hanging with any big man in the paint this past postseason, so Kanter’s absence would minimized when it comes to playoffs. To win an NBA championship a team needs at least two superstars, great defense and a presence in the paint. By acquiring Klay Thompson, the Thunder would be able to check off all three of those boxes.
I believe this trade would benefit the Warriors just as much as the Thunder. I know that’s a hard idea to wrap your mind around, since the Warriors (31-6) are currently the top team in the NBA. However, we learned last year that a regular season record has no effect on the postseason other than seeding. Another note from the playoffs last year that seems to be forgotten is the Warriors may have seen a second-round exit, if not for Chris Paul and Blake Griffin suffering season-ending injuries. Between Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, the Warriors are more than capable at shooting. They are once again a great regular season team, but when the playoffs roll around the Warriors will be challenged by teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers and even the Thunder because of their presence in the paint.
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but Zaza Pachulia is not the answer, despite placing second for Western Conference frontcourt players in NBA All-Star voting. All-star voting means absolutely nothing in terms of production. Let’s not forget the Kobe Bryant was voted as a starter last year. Zaza is currently averaging about five points and six rebounds per game, while JaVale McGee is averaging five points and 2 two rebounds. Kanter is currently averaging 14 points and six rebounds off the bench. If he were to join the Warriors he would bring an ability to score, while also protecting the rim. In addition, Zaza would be able to come off the bench and actually be as valuable to the Warriors as the voters have made him seem to be. The chemistry would already be there since he has played with KD these past few seasons, so there would not be an extended time to figure out how he fits with the team.
The likelihood of this trade is nonexistent, but there is no denying the impact and benefits both teams would see from this hypothetical move. This would create the best rivalry in the league, outside of the Golden State Warriors-Cleveland Cavaliers rivalry. It would also create a new contender for the title, which would be great for the NBA. Finally, let’s not lie to ourselves, we’d all love to see Russ and Klay take on KD and Steph in the Western Conference Finals.
If you would like to receive an email each time a new Oklahoma City Thunder article is published, fill out our email notification form.