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Oklahoma City Thunder Hold the Key to a Monster Multi-Team Trade

The NBA off-season has been an eventful one for the Oklahoma City Thunder as General Manager Sam Presti continues to “reposition” the franchise into the future. The Thunder have been in so many deals, it feels odd when their name isn’t featured in some sort of trade.

One deal that is taking some time involves the signing of Gordon Hayward by the Charlotte Hornets. After initially announcing the team was to use the stretch provision on Nicolas Batum, the Hornets re-engaged with the Boston Celtics for a potential sign and trade. The Celtics are seeking a potential $30-million-dollar Trade Exception and wish not to take on returning salary. Charlotte, however, must free $10-million-dollars in cap space to make Hayward’s signing official.

Here is the latest on the deal per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

In order for both Boston and Charlotte’s needs to be met, there are only two teams that can absorb Batum’s salary – Oklahoma City Thunder and the New York Knicks. Given how aggressive the Thunder have been, they appear to be the most likely candidate. However, absorbing $27.1-million-dollars is no joke and Presti will use every ounce of leverage he has to maximize the return.

Oklahoma City Thunder hold the key to a monster multi-team trade

How is Oklahoma City the key?

In a trade that sent center Steven Adams to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Thunder acquired a $27.5-million dollar trade exception. After some complicated cap gymnastics, the Thunder were able to use existing trade exceptions to absorb all players’ salaries in the transaction, paving the way to the largest trade exception in NBA history. More recently, Oklahoma City acquired another large trade exception in a trade that sent Danilo Gallinari to the Atlanta Hawks.

With both trade exceptions, the Thunder can act as a team above the salary cap thus can absorb various salaries in future deals.

Last Word on Sports has looked at what the Thunder can do in a three-team deal involving Boston and Charlotte but what if a deal can be expanded to a five-team transaction?

Five Team Blockbuster

The Thunder facilitates a five-team blockbuster deal involving the Los Angeles Clippers (LAC), Milwaukee Bucks (MIL), Charlotte Hornets (CHA), and Boston Celtics (BOS).

Charlotte Hornets Reasoning

In this deal, the Hornets get their wish and move off Nicolas Batum’s deal and avoid a disaster. When reports came out that Charlotte was going to use the Stretch Provision, it caused a stir amongst NBA capologists. Having nine-million dollars in dead money the next three seasons is criminal as it cannot be used or moved. The Hornets avoid a potential disaster.

However, it does come with a premium. Charlotte will need to forfeit a future first-round pick to entice Oklahoma City to eat $27.1-million dollars. OKC will likely target the Hornets 2021 first-rounder for maximum value. Charlotte’s front office will need to decide if sacrificing a future first is worth future cap flexibility.

Boston Celtics Reasoning

There are two incentives for Boston: avoid losing Gordon Hayward for nothing and the acquisition of a large trade exception to absorb a player in the future.

Right now, the Celtics are a sitting duck. They have virtually no leverage in this deal so getting something back for Hayward is the team’s top priority. The trade exception is projected to be somewhere in the $30-million-dollar mark and would extremely useful if a max-level player wants out. Boston is knocking on the door of a championship and the trade exception could potentially change the team’s trajectory.

In order to make this deal work though, Boston would need to send the Thunder some compensation. Multiple second-round picks including the return of Oklahoma City’s 2021 pick is a good place to start.

Los Angeles Clippers Reasoning

Los Angeles was on the verge of being one of the biggest losers in Free Agency had big man Serge Ibaka not signed with the team. Now that they have secured his services, the Clippers are on the hunt for a point guard. One player in the rumor mill is Terry Rozier.

Rozier is a serviceable point guard averaging 18.8 points and 4.1 assists on 42.7 percent shooting. The 25-year-old had a career year from three, converting on 40.7 percent of his triples on a whopping 6.7 attempts. He is a dogged defender and can force his way to the rim. He would be a nice pick-up for the Clippers.

Also, the Clippers remove some locker room issues from last season. It has been rumored some players in the organization clashed with franchise stars, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. This deal gives the Clippers a chance to create peace and move toward the 2020-21 season.

Milwaukee Bucks Reasoning

Milwaukee is in a tough position after flunking on a deal for Bogdan Bogdanovic. The organization sacrificed its entire future on the notion they were receiving Jrue Holiday and Bogdanovic. Milwaukee made a crucial mistake, releasing details of an imminent sign and trade deal four days before the start of Free Agency. Commissioner Adam Silver sent a memo to all 30 teams that tampering will not be tolerated. In the end, Bogdanovic was forced to deny a deal was in place and re-entered free agency.

In the deal, the Bucks receive walking bucket, Lou Williams. Executives around the league anticipate the Clippers will move on from the 34-year-old rumored to clash with the team’s stars.

The veteran can score in a myriad of ways and addresses Milwaukee’s need of scoring in the clutch. “Sweet Lou” averaged 18.2 points on 41.2 percent shooting and 35.1 percent from three.

Oklahoma City Thunder Reasoning

Picks, picks, picks. For Oklahoma City, the motivations stay in tune with their “repositioning”. Presti has gone full Sam Hinkie in the space of 10 days, with a full roster make-over. With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as the franchise’s centerpiece along with building blocks Darius Bazley and Luguentz Dort, Presti already has a lot to work with.

A potential 2021 first-round pick is salivating for Presti as next year’s draft class is projected to be loaded with stars. If it’s not 2021, then any future first-round pick is valuable. The other appeal for the Thunder is re-acquiring their second-round pick from Boston. With the Thunder looking to “reposition” this season, their second-round pick will likely land in the 31-35 range.


A deal of this magnitude with this many teams is extremely rare as all must agree to terms. However, the 2020 off-season has been full of cap juggling, unique trades, and has seen the maximum use of trade rules. Additionally, all teams in this transaction benefit from this deal. The only sticking point is likely to be around future picks and its protections. It will be interesting to see the final form of the Gordon Hayward transaction.

One thing is for certain, the Oklahoma City Thunder will be firmly amongst the action.

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