As Smith notes, Oklahoma City is averse to taking on much – if any – money due to luxury tax concerns. Currently, the team’s tax bill projects to be easily the highest in the NBA. Still, the Thunder feel they need at least one more big man to their roster for the postseason, Smith adds.
Noel has been a solid backup center for the Thunder this season behind Steven Adams, but took a scary fall during Tuesday’s loss to the Timberwolves and was diagnosed with a concussion. Noel appears to have avoided a more serious injury, such as a fracture, but his recovery timeline is up in the air. He’ll need to show that he’s symptom-free before he can resume basketball activities.
Even with a healthy Noel, it might be in the Thunder’s best interests to add one more frontcourt contributor. Adams and Noel are strong defenders, rim protectors, and inside scorers, but many of their skills overlap and neither player shoots from outside. Between the two of them, they’ve attempted just one three-pointer this season.
Oklahoma City could use a big man who can stretch the floor a little for certain matchups — Patrick Patterson was supposed to be that player, but has struggled since arriving in OKC in 2017, making just 37.9% of his shots. He’s shooting 30.8% on three-pointers this season.
Based on Smith’s report, it’s not clear if the Thunder are more focused on the trade market or on a potential free agent addition, perhaps on a 10-day contract. I’d expect the team to explore all its options leading up to next month’s trade deadline.