At long last, the actual rebuilding of the Oklahoma City Thunder may be taking place.
That doesn’t mean Oklahoma City can’t still be a surprisingly capable squad. Yet, should it, it will do so without Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder, the two players most responsible for the Thunder’s shocking 2019-20 campaign, in which they tied the Houston Rockets for fourth place in the Western Conference.
Monday, first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Thunder agreed to trade Paul, as well as Abdel Nader, to the Phoenix Suns for Kelly Oubre Jr., Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome and Jalen Lecque, as well as a 2022 first-round draft pick.
According to The Athletic, the 2022 pick is top-12 protected; top-10 protected in 2023; top-eight protected in 2025 and unprotected in 2025.
Later Monday evening, the Thunder confirmed the deal, though without the logistics of the pick.
Also, as reported by Wojnarowski Sunday, Oklahoma City agreed to trade Schroder to the Los Angeles Lakers for Danny Green and the 28th selection in Wednesday’s NBA draft. The Lakers are expected to make the pick themselves, then trade that player and Green to OKC for Schroder.
The Thunder also hold the 25th pick in Wednesday’s draft, granted them by Denver in last offseason’s Jerami Grant trade.
All told, the bounty received in deals that sent Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets, Grant to the Nuggets and now Schroder and Paul to the Lakers and Suns, the Thunder own 16 to 18 first-round selections between now and the 2026 draft, the exact number depending upon where some of those picks fall.
In his lone Thunder season, Paul missed only one game (to mourn the passing of Kobe Bryant), while averaging 17.6 points, 5 rebounds and 6.7 assists.
Announcing the deal via release Monday evening, Thunder general manager Sam Presti paid tribute to Paul, who also began his NBA career in Oklahoma City, playing for the Hurricane Katrina-displaced New Orleans Hornets.
“We want to thank Chris for the contributions he has made to the Thunder and the Oklahoma City community … Chris has been the consummate team leader and has left a tremendous legacy in a short period of time,” Presti said. “We wish him and Abdel and their families only the best moving forward. We also look forward to welcoming Ricky, Kelly, Ty and Jalen to Oklahoma City.”
The Thunder will miss both Paul and Schroder.
The German-born point guard placed second in the NBA’s sixth-man-of-the-year voting this past season, averaging 18.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4 assists.
By dealing Paul ($41.35 million) and Schroder ($15.50 million), the Thunder will be out from under almost $59 million in owed salary for the coming season.
Of the players headed to OKC, though not clear how many will be on the roster opening day, all could be. Following is a short description of each.
• Danny Green: an 11-year veteran, the 6-foot-6 shooting guard averaged 8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.3 steals for the Lakers last season, shooting 41.6 percent overall and 36.7 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. The 2020-21 season marks the final year of a contract that will pay him $15.4 million in the coming season.
• Ricky Rubio: a nine-year veteran, the 6-3 Spanish point guard averaged 13 points, 8.8 assists and 4.7 rebounds for the Suns last season, shooting 41.5 percent overall and 36.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. The 2020-21 season will mark the final year of a contract that still owes him $17.8 million.
• Kelly Oubre Jr.: Possibly the biggest incoming piece of either deal, the 6-7 forward averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds last season, shooting 45.2 precent overall and 35.2 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. A six-year veteran, he’s entering the final year of a contract that will pay him almost $14.4 million.
• Ty Jerome: a 23-year-old point guard, Jerome was the 24th overall pick in last year’s draft, chosen shortly after leading Virginia to an NCAA championship. He played in 31 games for the Suns last season, averaging 10.6 minutes and 3.3 points. Though entering the second year of a two-year contract that will pay him $2.3 million next season; the contract also includes team options of $2.4 million and $4.2 million for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons.
• Jalen Lecque: only 20 years old, the 6-3 guard played in five games last season, averaging 2 points over an average 6.4 minutes of court time. He spent most of last season in the developmental G-League after going undrafted out of Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. He’ll be playing this coming season on the second year of a four-year rookie contract that’s due to pay him $4.3 million, total, over the length of the deal.