A flurry of deals went down just before the NBA trade deadline Thursday, as several teams dumped players and salaries while several others added key pieces to make a run at the playoffs – or, in some cases, a championship.
No team, however, made more influential moves than Oklahoma City. The Thunder acquired Enes Kanter and Steve Novak and traded Reggie Jackson to Detroit and Kendrick Perkins to Utah.
“I think Oklahoma City, the moves they made could be the most impactful,” Sports Illustrated NBA insider Chris Mannix said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “That was the wildest 20 minutes I’ve ever been a part of when it comes to a trade deadline. I mean, there are still things happening. But Oklahoma City – in effectively deciding Enes Kanter is the guy they wanted for Reggie Jackson instead of Brook Lopez – made a call there.”
Kanter, 22, averaged 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds for Utah. Lopez, 26, is averaging 15.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks for Brooklyn.
“Kanter, even though he’s had a hard time fitting in with Utah this year, is an offensively capable center,” Mannix said. “He’s 22 years old, (and) he’s going to have a chance to help them win now and grow with this group later.”
That the Thunder dealt Jackson may be a surprise to some, but it shouldn’t be. Jackson averaged 12.8 points, 4.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game for Oklahoma City this year, but the 24-year-old wasn’t meshing with his teammates.
“Reggie, for all his marvelous talents, was just not working out in Oklahoma City,” Mannix confirmed. “He poisoned the atmosphere in that locker room to the point where they just couldn’t bring him back. Now with (Dion) Waiters and with Kanter coming off the bench, they now have a pretty formidable rotation to make a run at the playoffs.”
Oklahoma City (28-25) is a half game behind Phoenix (29-25) for the final playoff spot in the West – at least for now. The Suns dealt Goran Dragic to Miami on Thursday and are no longer a viable playoff threat.
But if you’re an Oklahoma City fan, you have to wonder why the Thunder went after Kanter instead of Lopez. Was it age? Fit? Salary?
It could be all of the above.
But it might go even deeper than that.
“I’ll tell you this, Doug,” Mannix said. “There’s a sense in Brooklyn that this is kind of payback on the part of the Thunder. Remember a couple weeks back – or even a month back – there was a deal that the Thunder thought they had for Brook Lopez that would involve Kendrick Perkins and some spare parts? Brooklyn eventually pulled out of that – kind of at the last minute. They were the last remaining piece there in that puzzle. They pulled out.
“There is a sense among some people in Brooklyn that maybe this was the Thunder’s way of sort of sticking it to them – making them think they had a deal and really preventing them form going out there and trying to make another one. Because I think they wanted to make a deal for Lopez before the deadline one way or the other.”