The Thunder are, to the surprise of many, a playoff team as they prepare to welcome Russell Westbrook back to Oklahoma City on Thursday night. At 21-16, they're 4 1/2 games ahead of the eighth-place Spurs and two games behind the sixth-place Mavericks after Wednesday's games.
Yet, OKC's front office is reportedly prepared to weaken itself before the Feb. 6 trade deadline and into the offseason as it continues to pursue a rebuild. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday night that the Thunder are "open for business," and he named four veteran players who are on the market: Chris Paul, Steven Adams, Dennis Schroeder and Danilo Gallinari. That's three starters and a top reserve.
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Each player has value to the right team(s), as Woj noted, but there are limits. SN lays out some of those limits as it ranks the aforementioned foursome, from most to least tradeable asset:
1. Steven Adams
Why he's here: He's 26, he's on pace to average a double-double (11.9 points, 10.3 rebounds through Wednesday) for the first time in his career, and he hasn't gotten any less intense in the paint. Those three reasons put the big man at the top. The one downside? He's making lots of money (HINT: That's going to be a theme in this list), with $25.8 million due him this season and $27.5 million due him next season.
2. Dennis Schroeder
Why he's here: Schroeder, 26, has been a splendid sixth man while playing essentially starter minutes (30.6 per game) this season, with averages of 18.5 points and 3.7 assists. The quick guard also leads the team with a net plus-13.3 per 100 possessions (Adams is second at plus-6.7). Like Adams, Schroeder's contract goes through 2020-21, but he's much more affordable at $15.5 million this season and next.
3. Danilo Gallinari
Why he's here: Gallinari will provide outside shooting (39.2 percent from 3 this season) from the forward position, but his age (31) and injury history move him down this list. He's day to day with a calf injury after missing Tuesday's game against the Nets, and he missed four games in December because of a sore ankle. One selling point for teams looking to acquire him: He's on an expiring contract, which is paying him $22.6 million this season.
4. Chris Paul
Why he's here: It's the money, mostly. Paul's contract is almost impossible to move, even if Thunder general manager Sam Presti has to wait until July to make a deal. Paul's salaries over the remainder of his contract are $38.5 million in 2019-20, $41.36 million in 2020-21 and $44.2 million (player option) in 2021-22. One other problem: Paul will be 36 when the '21-22 season begins. Presti will need to hope that at least one team is willing to bite on one of the best point guards in league history..