Oklahoma City Thunder Should Facilitate Gordon Hayward to Charlotte Deal

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The Oklahoma City Thunder have taken many of the headlines by storm with General Manager Sam Presti wheeling and dealing through the first two days of free agency. Presti has made deals with almost half of the league and possesses 20 first-round picks (at it stands) over the next several drafts.

Oklahoma City also added a bevy of second-round picks to its treasure chest, setting itself up for a quick rebuild. The 2021 and 2022 drafts are tantalizing, littered with superstar talent, excellent role players, and high school players (potentially).

One deal that should interest Oklahoma City involves Gordon Hayward and the Charlotte Hornets.

Oklahoma City Thunder Should Facilitate Gordon Hayward to Charlotte Deal

On the second day of free agency, the former Boston Celtic surprised the NBA world, signing a four-year, $120 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets. Hayward explored numerous options, considering sign-and-trade ideas or re-signing at his current post. One destination not mentioned was the Hornets, who seemingly came out of nowhere to ink the former All-Star.

However, the trade came with one hitch – Charlotte needed more than $10 million in cap space to sign him. Instead of searching for a new home for Nicolas Batum, the Hornets announced they would waive and stretch the forward’s $27 million contract.

Fast forward a few hours and the Hornets were willing to talk about a potential sign-and-trade. This was a power play by the Hornets. who realized they possessed all the leverage in this transaction. Charlotte could increase the pressure by involving Presti and Oklahoma City.

Benefits of a Deal with Oklahoma City

For Charlotte, they avoid ownership of a true negative asset. All NBA teams avoid possessing dead money on its books because it provides zero value. When a player is stretched and waived, their deal counts against the team’s cap using the following formula:

Number of years remaining on the deal multiplied by two plus one 

For example, the Los Angeles Lakers elected to stretch forward Luol Deng’s remaining two-year, $29 million contract. Therefore, the Lakers agreed to pay Deng $4.99 million every year for the next five seasons. While many Charlotte fans discard $9 million as no big deal, it’s money that cannot be used or traded.

Why Charlotte Balked at a Potential Deal

The direction of the franchise is confusing to establish. One moment they are intent on rebuilding and the next they are trying to make the playoffs. In typical Hornets’ fashion, it’s somewhere in between.

As it stands, the Hornets made it clear they are not interested in trading future assets electing for flexibility to build a roster. Charlotte possesses all its future first-round picks, along with six second-round selections. While their scouting department could use some work evaluating talent, they have a small cushion moving into the future.

How Oklahoma City Helped Charlotte Acquire Hayward

The biggest drawcard for Oklahoma City is a strong asset back from Charlotte. The Thunder created the biggest TPE (Traded Player Exception) in NBA history of $27.5 million following a Steven Adams trade to New Orleans.

With the right incentive, Oklahoma City could absorb Batum’s remaining money. Terry Rozier’s two-year, $36 million deal is another contract Charlotte could look to move after drafting LaMelo Ball.

Oklahoma City Can Kill Two Birds with One Stone

Another avenue is for the Thunder to trade multiple players. Veterans Trevor Ariza, George Hill, and Darius Miller are on value deals that can be easily flipped to other teams. Ariza (one-year, $12.8 million), Miller (one-year, $7 million) and Hill (two-year, $18-million) provide Oklahoma City with options to acquire to mix and match salaries. As it stands, the Thunder has 22 players on its roster and will need to consolidate at some point.

This is an opportunity for the Thunder to kill two birds with one stone – acquire future draft capital and roster consolidation. It would serve Oklahoma City well to include just one of their veterans and two or three small deals to maximize its return. Either way, there is plenty of incentive for Oklahoma City to involve itself.

Conclusion

Presti’s activity during the first two days of free agency has been amazing and there’s reason to believe he is not done. Al Horford, Ariza, Hill, and Miller are quality veterans looking to compete for championships, not to babysit on a non-playoff team.

Whether or not Presti engages or if Charlotte answers the phone remains to be seen. If the Hornets and Boston reach an impasse, I have little doubt the Thunder will be willing to lend a helping hand.

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