At long last, the real rebuilding of the Oklahoma City Thunder may be taking place.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Oklahoma City can't be a surprisingly capable squad, as it was last season. However, should it, it will do it without both 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
Also, Sunday, as reported by Wojnarowski, 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 formally make the pick themselves, before trading the chosen player and Green to OKC for Schroder.
All told, given the bounty received in deals that sent Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets, Jerami Grant to the Denver Nuggets and now Schroder and Paul to the Lakers and Suns, the Thunder own 17 first-round draft picks between now and the 2026 draft.
In his one Oklahoma City season, Paul missed only one game, while averaging 17.6 points, 5 rebounds and 6.7 assists. Additionally, he was the clear team leader, taking virtually the entire team under his wing, yet nobody moreso than second-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and rookie forward Darius Bazley, who remain with the team.
Schroder placed second in the NBA’s sixth-man-of-the-year voting, averaging 18.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and four assists.
In 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.
As for the players headed to Oklahoma City, here’s a thumbnail rundown on 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 paying him almost $15.4 million.
• Ricky Rubio: a nine-year veteran, the 6-3 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 paying 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, not long after leading Virginia to a national championship. He played in 31 games for the Suns last season, averaging 10.6 minutes and 3.3 points. He’ll be entering the second year of a two-year contract paying 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, yet after signing a four-year rookie contract, of which three seasons and about $4.3 million in salary remain.