Sam Presti

Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti answers a question following Paul George's first news conference in Oklahoma City, since the Thunder's blockbuster trade with the Indiana Pacers. The real MVP of the offseason appears to be Presti. The soft-spoken Thunder general manager made blockbuster deals to add Paul George and Carmelo Anthony that immediately put the Thunder in contention to compete with Golden State in the Western Conference.

LOS ANGELES — The Oklahoma City Thunder didn't make any changes at Thursday's NBA trade deadline. But that was usual.

Not many teams were active through deadline. In fact, if it weren’t for the Cleveland Cavaliers dealing six of their players to bring in four, then none of the top-five teams in either conference would have made a trade. 

The Thunder, of course, were in that category: active in conversations without anything tangible to show for it. It’s a new normal for the NBA, where teams were weary about taking on longterm money and trading first-round draft picks inside a more fiscally conservative environment. 

The struggling Memphis Grizzlies fielded offers so minimal for guard Tyreke Evans, who is in the midst of a renaissance season, that they held onto him even though he’ll be a free agent at the end of this year. The L.A. Clippers weren’t able to part with guard Avery Bradley or center DeAndre Jordan, both of whom they were shopping leading up to the deadline. The Atlanta Hawks rested shooting guard Marco Belinelli in anticipation of a deal and still didn’t get one involving him done.

Cleveland, which revamped its roster with best-player-in-the-world LeBron James readying for 2018 free agency, was the only team to trade a first-round pick Thursday. Only two teams dealt first-rounders during the trade season. The Detroit Pistons sent one to the Clippers last week in the deal that brought in star power forward Blake Griffin.

The Thunder, like many, can now look to the buyout market to find help.

• Buyouts: The Thunder won’t be the only players on the buyout market, especially with other top teams staying put at the deadline. They will, however, have options.

It’s often easy to spot a buyout candidate: find an upcoming unrestricted free agent, usually a veteran, on a bad team who can, for whatever reason, boost his profile with another organization. He gives back some money. His team lets him out of his contract, and he enters the free agent market. 

Belinelli fits the profile. Longtime wing Joe Johnson will reportedly work a buyout with the Sacramento Kings, who traded for him Thursday. Others will become available, as well.

The Thunder have one open roster spot, but cannot offer more than a minimum contract, as is true for most teams. In order to be playoff eligible for a new team, a player must negotiate a buyout before March 1. With the NBA moving the trade deadline up two weeks this year (it was the Thursday following the All-Star Game last year), teams have even more time to negotiate buyouts. 

• Everybody’s out: Russell Westbrook (left ankle sprain) and Carmelo Anthony (right ankle sprain) both missed Thursday’s game at the Los Angeles Lakers. Anthony suffered the injury during the first quarter of Tuesday’s win at the Golden State Warriors. Westbrook got hurt at some point in that game, as well, but played through it.

The Thunder have not released a timetable on either player moving forward. They started Raymond Felton, Josh Huestis, Paul George, Patrick Patterson and Steven Adams against the Lakers.

Two-way players Daniel Hamilton and P.J. Dozier were active in their place. It was the first time the Thunder had activated Dozier this season.

Fred Katz is the Thunder beat writer for the Norman Transcript and CNHI Oklahoma as well as the host of the postgame show, Thunder After Dark, and the OKC Dream Team, a weekly Thunder podcast that runs every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter: @FredKatz.

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