The Oklahoma City Thunder had no choice but to trade Reggie Jackson. The fourth-year point guard repeatedly stated that his goal was starting, rejected a contract extension and disrupted the locker room. He reportedly refused to play at the beginning of the year to show his disappointment for not being moved during the offseason, and the situation became so toxic that earlier in the year Kendrick Perkins admitted he and Serge Ibaka had frozen Jackson out for being selfish.
Most teams would have relented and moved him earlier than the trade deadline for below market value, while hoping that the improvement to team chemistry would have been enough to justify a trade that netted unimpressive returns. The Thunder's front office decided to show patience instead and it paid off.
For the disgruntled Jackson and the increasingly redundant Perkins, Oklahoma City got a backup point guard that fits their style, two shooters and a big man with a versatile offensive game. It wasn't as flashy as the rumored trade for Nets' center Brook Lopez, but it definitely covered more of the Thunder's needs.
The Thunder added the spot-up shooters they needed
For all his potential as a shot-creator, Jackson was one of the worst catch-and-shoot three-point shooters among rotation players, with only Lance Stephenson and his 13.8 three-point field goal percentage ranking below Jackson's 21.1 percent. Jackson was better last season on those situations but he was never going to become a great spot-up shooter, not when he wanted the ball in his hands as much as he did. D.J. Augustin is having a down year as a catch-and-shoot three-point threat, connecting on just 32.8 of his looks but he shot a stellar 43.1 percent in a smaller role in Chicago last season. If he can return to form, his shooting should more than make up for losing Jackson's often redundant shot-creation.
The Thunder also nabbed Kyle Singler from Detroit and Steve Novak from Utah in the three-team trade. Novak likely won't see time unless there's an emergency because shooting threes is all he does well. Singler, on the other hand, has an opportunity to break into the rotation. The Thunder's starting shooting guard is Andre Roberson, who is shooting just 2.3 three-pointers per 36 minutes and hitting them at a 24 percent clip. Singler averages 5.2 per 36 minutes on 40 percent shooting. Singler is not a stopper but neither is Roberson just yet, despite showing significant defensive potential. Also, teams completely ignore him on the other end.
Singler will immediately become an option for Scott Brooks whenever the spacing gets cramped. Along with Augustin and Anthony Morrow, the Thunder now have a variety of reliable shooters to trot out to keep the opponent's defense honest.
Enes Kanter provides a post presence
The idea that the Thunder need a post presence is overstated. Any team that has Durant and Westbrook will be perimeter-oriented and post-ups are inefficient plays when used to score. That doesn't mean that going to the block on occasion -- especially to start possessions and look for better shots elsewhere as the defense shifts -- isn't a good option to have. Perkins couldn't provide that and Enes Kanter can.
Kanter is far from an elite post threat -- he turns it over a lot, struggles to make the right pass at times and mostly goes over his right shoulder -- but with a well-spaced floor he can definitely punish teams with his scoring. The Turkish center won't be a high-usage player in Oklahoma City but on some games he will provide a mismatch inside, something none of the other Thunder big men can provide.
That's what Lopez would have contributed and Kanter will do it for a fraction of the salary, and the possibility to cut ties this offseason if the fit isn't right.
SB Nation presents: The three biggest trades at this year's deadline
Everyone will be happy with their roles
Losing Perkins surely hurt team chemistry, as he was one of the locker room leaders. At the same time though, with Durant and Westbrook more mature than when the team traded for him, he wasn't as necessary to set the tone anymore. If it meant sending out the disgruntled Jackson as well, parting with Perkins could have a positive effect as everyone will be ready to accept their roles.
"We felt like everybody wanted to be here except for one guy," Kevin Durant said when asked about the moves. "So it wasn't like everybody was going crazy at shootaround."
Reggie Jackson to Pistons
Jackson is out and Augustin, who played with Durant in college and was happy coming off the bench for the Pistons before Brandon Jennings got injured, comes in. Kyle Singler made his path to the NBA after playing in Europe and is a prototypical glue guy, so he won't have any illusions of stardom. Novak never got off the bench for the Jazz but is a consummated professional. The only player that could be disruptive is Kanter, who wasn't happy with his role in Utah. But with free agency coming next offseason he would be wise to show general managers he is a team player.
Making so many changes in one season is not common for a contender -- and despite their place in the standings, that's what the Thunder are. Only time will tell how it all pans out. Considering the situation the team was in going into the trade deadline, however, it's hard to be discouraged by the return general manager Sam Presti got for players that were not key cogs this season and he wasn't going to retain in the summer. On paper, at least, the Thunder got better.