Thunder Rumors

And-Ones: Paul, Sylla, Tampering, Canada

In an interesting piece regarding Chris Paul‘s role as the head of the NBA Players Union, Tom Ziller of SB Nation opines that Paul’s reported insistence and hand in incorporating the Over-38 Rule into the 2017 CBA has now ironically landed him with one the most untradeable contracts in the NBA.

Paul, who is admittedly now under contract to make more money because of the rule change, is also stuck on the Thunder, a non-contending team, with no real way out until later this year when the latest crop of free agents become trade eligible.

Ultimately, Ziller opines that the tradeoff (non-contending team vs. an extra $45MM) was worth it for Paul, but wonders whether CP3, as union president, sacrificed the good of many (mid-level earners) for the benefit of few.

We have more odds and ends to report from around the basketball world:

  • Amar Sylla, the No. 23 prospect for the 2020 NBA Draft, has signed a three-year contract containing NBA out clauses with Belgian league champions BC Oostende, reports Jonathan Givony of ESPN.
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer writes that many executives believe the penalty for tampering needs to be harsher, including the removal of first-round picks or even as severe as being barred from trading any picks for some amount of years in addition to the loss of picks. “Basketball operations needs to get hit the hardest, not an owner’s wallets,” said another executive.
  • Canada Basketball has announced the 29 players invited to attend the Senior Men’s National Team training camp ahead of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. The list includes R.J. Barrett, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Cory Joseph, Jamal Murray, and Tristan Thompson.

What Will OKC Rebuild Look Like With CP3 Still On Roster?

Heat Notes: Paul, Beal, Expiring Contracts, Waiters

The Heat and Thunder never came close to making a deal involving Chris Paul, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

Miami was pursuing Russell Westbrook before Oklahoma City agreed to trade him to Houston last week. The focus shifted to a possible deal that would bring Paul to the Heat, but they don’t have the same level of enthusiasm about acquiring him that they did for Westbrook. (Twitter link). A report today indicates that Oklahoma City is pessimistic about its chances of moving Paul and may keep him on the roster for the entire season.

The Heat were only willing to take on the three years and $124MM left on Paul’s contract if OKC met certain demands, including the return of Miami’s draft picks for 2021 and 2023, Jackson adds. The Heat are reluctant to absorb that much salary because it would restrict their flexibility for the summer of 2021.

There’s more from South Florida:

  • Miami’s next chance to add a star could come if Bradley Beal turns down an extension offer from the Wizards, according to Jackson (Twitter link). He suggests the Heat will be among the teams contacting Washington about Beal if they don’t reach an agreement. Beal will become eligible for the extension, which would pay him $111MM over three seasons, on July 26. Jackson notes that the Wizards have turned aside all trade offers involving Beal so far, but he will become a free agent in 2021 without the extension.
  • Some of the Heat’s expiring contracts don’t look so bad after this summer’s spending and may prove to be valuable trade assets, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson both have 2020/21 player options, but Winderman states that Olynyk might opt out of his $13.2MM salary in view of this year’s market. Johnson is more likely to opt in for $16MM because of his age. Goran Dragic and Meyers Leonard have expiring deals with no options and are expected to be trade chips.
  • Frustrated by jokes over his body last season, Dion Waiters showed off his leaner, stronger physique in an Instragram post Monday, as relayed in an ESPN story. Waiters admits to being in a “dark place mentally & physically” during the past season as he tried to shake off the effects of an ankle injury.

Chris Paul Likely To Start Season In OKC

The Thunder haven’t found any success in their attempts to trade Chris Paul, and he appears destined to be on their roster when the season begins in October, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Moving Paul has seemed like the next logical step since a trade that brought him from Houston in exchange for Russell Westbrook was agreed upon last week. The deal become official last night, but it appears any potential market for Paul has dried up.

The Thunder have been working with the nine-time All-Star and his representatives to find an acceptable deal, but both sides now see benefits to having him spend the season in Oklahoma City, Wojnarowski adds. Because the trade happened so far into free agency, few contenders have the flexibility to take on Paul, who will make $124MM over the next three years. OKC may re-examine its options once most of the newly signed free agents become eligible to be traded on December 15, or after next season is complete.

GM Sam Presti would be happy to have Paul for the entire season, Woj relays, and Paul views the Thunder as a playoff contender with Danilo GallinariSteven AdamsDennis Schroder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander already in place. Woj adds that the Thunder don’t believe they should have to give up any draft considerations to move Paul’s contract. They acquired two first-rounders and two pick swaps in the deal with Houston.

More Details On Draft Picks Traded From Rockets To Thunder

Five days after agreeing to terms on the blockbuster trade that sends Russell Westbrook to Houston and Chris Paul to Oklahoma City, the Rockets and Thunder officially completed that deal on Tuesday night. Now that the trade has been finalized, we know exactly what the language looks like on the draft picks – and swaps – sent from Houston to OKC in the agreement.

Via ClutchFans (Twitter link) and Keith Smith of RealGM (Twitter links), here are the details on the draft assets the Thunder acquired in the deal:

  • Rockets’ 2024 first-round pick (top-four protected)
    • If this pick falls in its protected range, the Thunder will instead receive Houston’s 2024 and 2025 second-round picks.
  • Rockets’ 2026 first-round pick (top-four protected)
    • If this pick falls in its protected range, the Thunder will instead receive Houston’s 2026 second-round pick and $1MM in cash.
    • While that $1MM is conditional, it technically must count toward the Rockets’ traded-cash limit for the 2019/20 league year, notes David Weiner of ClutchFans (via Twitter).
  • The right to swap first-round picks with the Rockets in 2021 (top-four protected)
    • Since the Thunder also own the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-round pick, Houston will receive the least favorable of those three first-rounders, while the Thunder will receive the two most favorable picks (unless the Rockets’ pick falls in the top four).
  • The right to swap first-round picks with the Rockets in 2025 (top-10 protected)
    • This pick swap was originally reported as top-20 protected, but ClutchFans and Smith both indicate that the protection is actually 1-10, meaning it could still end up being a lottery pick.
    • The Thunder also have the right to swap first-round picks with the Clippers in this draft, so they won’t necessarily swap with Houston even if the Rockets’ pick falls outside the top 10 and is more favorable than Oklahoma City’s pick. For instance, if the Clippers’ pick is No. 12, the Rockets’ is 15, and the Thunder’s is 20, OKC would swap with L.A. and Houston would remain at 15.

Thunder, Rockets Swap Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul

JULY 16: The trade is official, according to a Thunder press release.

“We recently had conversations with Russell about the team, his career, and how he sees the future,” GM Sam Presti said. “Through those conversations we came to the understanding that looking at some alternative situations would be something that made sense for him. As a result, and due to his history with the Thunder, we worked together to accommodate this,” said Presti. “Our ability to have these types of conversations and work so closely with Russell and his agent Thad Foucher is only possible because of the depth of the relationship that has been built over the last 11 years.
“Russell Westbrook is the most important player in the brief history of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has left an indelible mark on this team, city and state. None of us could have anticipated the player he has become, and we are all deeply proud of what he has contributed to the success of the franchise and to our community. Russell and his wife Nina, their three children, his brother and his parents will always remain part of the Thunder family. We wish them nothing but happiness and success in the future.”

JULY 11: The Rockets have acquired Russell Westbrook. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of (Twitter link), Houston will send Chris Paul, two first-round picks and two pick swaps to Oklahoma City in exchange for the eight-time All-Star.

The Thunder will receive the Rockets’ first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, according to Wojnarowski. Shams Charania of the Athletic tweets that those selections are each top-four protected.

Oklahoma City will also have the right to swap first-round picks with the Rockets during the 2021 and 2025 drafts, though those have protections as well. The 2021 swap is top-four protected, while the 2025 swap is top-20 protected, per Charania.

GM Sam Presti worked with Westbrook and his agent to send the point guard to Houston, which was his preferred destination, Wojnarowski tweets. Westbrook will reunite with James Harden, whom he previously played with on the Thunder (before the team traded Harden to the Rockets). Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link) hears that the push for a reunion came from both sides.

The Paul George trade request opened the door for another superstar to move this summer. The Thunder began an unexpected retooling process in the wake of trading George, leaving Westbrook in a curious position.

Rumors of the Paul-Harden relationship souring popped up this summer, with a report from Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports describing the relationship as “unsalvageable” and suggesting that CP3 wanted a trade. Both Paul and GM Daryl Morey shot down that report, but there was still widespread speculation that the team would try to move Paul.

Ramona Shelburne of tweets that Presti has spoken to Paul’s agent, Leon Rose. Rose, who also represents Carmelo Anthony, worked with the team last summer on an exit strategy for ‘Melo.

The Thunder’s plan as of now is to keep Paul alongside Danilo Gallinari and remain competitive, Sam Amick of The Athletic hears (Twitter link). Still, Amick cautions that at this stage in his career, the point guard isn’t going to be patient.

Paul, whose contract runs through 2021/22, will make $38.5MM in the 2019/20 season, with roughly $86MM due to him over the following two seasons. Westbrook will also make $38.5MM this upcoming season and he’ll take home $132.6MM over the ensuing three seasons. The two deals are essentially identical, with Westbrook’s running for an extra season. Both of the point guards also have a player option on the end of their contracts, though it’s unlikely that either will decide to hit the open market a year early.

Westbrook has a 15% trade bonus in his contract, but because he’s already earning a maximum salary, the bonus will be voided, ESPN’s Bobby Marks adds on Twitter.

Paul, 34, slowed signs of slowing down during the 2018/19 season. Injuries limited him to just 58 games, and his 15.6 PPG and .419 FG% were both the lowest marks of his 14-year career. However, he still chipped in 8.2 APG and 2.0 SPG while helping to lead the Rockets to the Western Semifinals.

As for Westbrook, his scoring average (22.9 PPG) was his lowest in five years and he went through some major shooting slumps en route to a .428/.290/.656 line. The 30-year-old still managed to average a triple-double for the third consecutive year though, contributing 11.1 RPG and a league-leading 10.7 APG to go along with 1.9 SPG.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Chris Paul, Heat

The blockbuster trade between the Thunder and Rockets that will send Russell Westbrook to Houston and Chris Paul to Oklahoma City has yet to be technically finalized, but OKC’s head of basketball operations Sam Presti continues to explore potential destinations for Paul.

Although the Heat appear to be the most likely suitor for Paul, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald continues to be skeptical of Miami’s level of interest in the veteran point guard. According to Jackson, the Heat are listening to the Thunder and won’t rule anything out, but they’re not actively pursuing CP3.

Appearing on SportsCenter on Monday, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst outlined some of the obstacles in the way of a deal between the Heat and Thunder, as Chris Grenham of relays.

“When you talk about [Paul] potentially going to the Miami Heat, which is his preference, one thing I’ve been told in the talks; the fact that the Thunder hold the two of the Heat’s first-round picks in the future — unprotected 2021, protected 2023 — makes this a difficult conversation because the Heat want those picks back,” Windhorst said (video link). “The Thunder have expressed an interest in giving one of those picks back, but they would want another pick farther off into the future.

“So I do think that these two teams have a lot to talk about, but because of those picks, it’s something that could get complicated, and the Thunder have let it to be known they are in no hurry.”

In his analysis of the potential trade discussions between the two clubs, Jackson conveyed a similar sentiment, suggesting that the Heat would want their draft picks back from the Thunder and cautioning that he wouldn’t expect Presti to be on board with that. Jackson also speculated that the Heat might want Paul to agree to decline his 2021/22 player option to help the club maintain future cap flexibility — that would be a lot to ask of the nine-time All-Star, whose option will be worth $44.2MM.

As cap expert Albert Nahmad notes (via Twitter), the Thunder acquired two first-round picks by swapping Westbrook for Paul. If Oklahoma City were to surrender two first-rounders to move Paul, the club wouldn’t really be coming out ahead in terms of assets, and would have little to show for giving up its former MVP. Presumably, the Thunder will be prepared to hang onto Paul into the season if Miami (or another team) isn’t willing to meet their asking price.

While the Heat still look like the best potential fit for Paul, there are so many complicating factors involved – including both teams’ cap and tax concerns – that it’s hard to imagine Miami and Oklahoma City quickly bridging the gap and agreeing to terms. It will be interesting to see if the Thunder and Rockets finalize their part of the trade this week, or if they continue to hold off on making it official in case it can be turned into a three-team deal.

Draft-Pick Stockpile Puts Thunder In Driver's Seat On Trade Market

  • Speaking of Jerami Grant, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer thinks the Nuggets‘ acquisition of the former Thunder forward was one of the very best moves of the 2019 offseason. As O’Connor outlines, Grant is the sort of quality wing who can complement Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray on offense while helping to cover for them on defense, which is exactly the sort of player Denver was missing last season.
  • David Aldridge of The Athletic takes a look at all the first-round picks the Thunder have acquired since the offseason began, observing that OKC could be in the driver’s seat for virtually any trade candidate in the league if the team decides to flip some of those picks for another star at some point.

Southwest Notes: Westbrook, Hartenstein, Rabb, Ball, Grizzlies

Loyalty and friendship were a big part of the equation in the Rockets’ acquisition of Russell Westbrook, Kelly Iko of The Athletic reports. The Thunder wanted to grant Westbrook his preferred destination once OKC decided to go into full rebuild mode. His friendship with James Harden proved vital, according to Iko, and put Houston over the top compared to the Heat, the other main bidder for Westbrook. The Rockets’ front office believes the Westbrook and Harden pairing will work out, especially since they’ll be surrounded by shooters, a luxury that Westbrook didn’t have with the Thunder.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Rockets reserve big man Isaiah Hartenstein will pass on the FIBA World Cup this summer in order to focus on next season, Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas tweets. Hartenstein, a 21-year-old 7-footer, informed the German national team that he has prioritized his NBA career. “I will need to prove I can belong here,” he told Urbonas.
  • Power forward Ivan Rabb and the Grizzlies have mutually agreed to push back his contract guarantee deadline to mid-October, Michael Wallace of the team’s website tweets. Rabb appeared in 49 games with Memphis last season, including 13 starts, averaging 5.8 PPG and 4.2 RPG. The 2017 second-round pick’s $1,618,520 salary for next season was due to be guaranteed today. He has a partial guarantee of $371,758.
  • New Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball is expected to be cleared for full contact in two weeks, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Ball was shut down in March due to an ankle injury.
  • The aftermath of the Grizzlies’ busy offseason shows the vision of the front office, David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. Memphis has a younger core to build around and has acquired future assets to accelerate the process.