Last night it was announced that the Oklahoma City Thunder had traded two second round draft picks to the Denver Nuggets to acquire power forward Joffrey Lauvergne.
This trade should be taken by the rest of the NBA as a clear indication of OKC’s intentions for the upcoming season, as it shows they want to still compete immediately at the highest level after last year’s defeat to Golden State in the conference finals.
Lauvergne, a forward who is also able to play the center position, will be entering his third season in the league when he arrives at the Thunder, after an understated but solid 18-month spell in the Mile High City.
During his first season Lauvergne had a tough time, as he joined the Nuggets more than halfway through the season and was forced to adjust on the fly to higher skilled NBA play, while getting used to playing alongside his teammates during brief minutes off the bench.
After settling, the Frenchman’s second season was much more promising, even if it flew under the radar for many NBA fans, and OKC are investing in that potential.
Playing just over 17 minutes per game off the bench, Lauvergne gave the Nuggets efficient play as a backup to starting power forward Kenneth Faried, also playing some minutes behind Nikola Jokic at center when required.
During that time on the court, he averaged almost eight points on better than 51% shooting from the field, as well as nearly five rebounds per game while shooting 89.9% from the free-throw line, one of the best percentages in the NBA.
So Lauvergne will almost certainly move straight into the rotation at Oklahoma City, alongside other big men Steven Adams, Enes Kanter and Nick Collison. But more than that, it is a statement of intent from OKC.
By giving up two 2017 second round picks for the French forward, who represented his country at the Olympics this past month, they are effectively stating that they believe they can still currently compete with the best teams in the NBA following the loss of Kevin Durant.
However, the squad had already seen a lot of changes before KD’s exit, as the Thunder had traded Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic on the night of the NBA Draft in exchange for Domantas Sabonis, Victor Oladipo and Ersan Ilyasova.
They would have been forgiven for opting to hit the reset button on their squad and rebuilding a new team around Russell Westbrook, who signed a new three-year deal this summer, but they have opted to move forward with the current squad.
Whether this is the right decision remains to be seen, and it’s likely we will only get a true indication of that later in the season. But for now, OKC still want to win and they want to do it now.