At 5-32, the New York Knicks, whose season is basically over, shipped off J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cavaliers in a three-team trade, in an attempt to open up cap space for the future, and received Lou Amundson, Alex Kirk, and the second-round pick in 2019, from Cleveland, and Lance Thomas from Oklahoma City.
The Cavaliers who have been plagued by injuries and where without LeBron James, and Kyrie Irving in there recent loss to the 76ers, receive J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert in a desperate attempt to stay above water while they wait for the return of their star players. They also received a protected 2015 first-round pick from the Thunder.
The team who seems to benefit the most from this however, is the Thunder. They gave up forward Lance Thomas, and a future draft pick, to acquire a player they have had their eye on for some time, Dion Waiters, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft. OKC is finally surging after struggling with some major injuries of their own, and are hoping that they found the piece that will propel them back to the top.
“Dion Waiters is a player that we’ve tracked and liked since his time at Syracuse, in the NBA, and with USA Basketball,” Said General Manager Sam Presti. “Dion provides another proven scorer that positively impacts our roster and adds depth and flexibility. We have a lot of respect for his toughness and competitiveness, and believe that he is a physical play-maker who will enhance the versatility of our team.”
The Thunder have been searching for a 6th man since trading James Harden to the Rockets in 2012. After trying to fill the role with various players, they think they may have found their man in Waiters, who averaged just over 15 points per game in his first two seasons before the Cavs added James and Kevin Love.
“I’m excited about Dion. I can’t wait to have him.” Kevin Durant said when hearing the news. “He’s a guy who has a lot of toughness. Being from the East Coast, I know a lot about Philadelphia where he comes from, South Philly where he comes from. Those guys are tough. They play with an edge, and that’s what he needs here.”
The last thing anyone else in the league wants to hear is that the Thunder added another scoring threat to their already potent squad, but that seems to be exactly what they think they got in Waiters.
“I am not saying he’s James’ replacement because we’re far past that,” Durant said. “But he can play, he can come off the bench for us and score and make plays. He is a really good player. A lot of people take him for granted, I think.”
Why do the Thunder believe he will have more success on their team than he did in the past?
“We are going to make him feel wanted,” Durant said. “I don’t know that he has felt that the last few years. We want him here and are happy to have him here.”
“He probably needs a fresh start,” His former coach Mike Brown told Yahoo Sports. “What better way than in Oklahoma City where they play to his strengths? He has had his ups and downs with playing off the bench. He believes he deserves to be a starter, But he looks up to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He was wanted in Oklahoma City, and they worked hard to get him. He accepted not starting in Cleveland and he still wanted to start. He will want to start in Oklahoma City, too. But he will accept coming off the bench there because of their players, culture and winning environment.”
It seems like all three teams got what they wanted, and this deal should benefit everybody in the long run, but as long as Waiters does what they need him to do to blend into the system, this could spell success for the Thunder, and trouble for the rest of the league.
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