Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti has made a deal at every trade deadline since taking over the job in 2007. Some blockbuster-ish -- like adding Enes Kanter last season -- and some on the fringe.
The basic facts of the trade are this:
With Augustin and Novak's combined salary of $6.7 million leaving and only $3.1 million in return, the Thunder will save $9.8 million total between reduced luxury tax penalties and salary. According to sources, this wasn't the motivation of making the trade as the Thunder are doing quite well financially, having prudently saved and planned to be a taxpaying team, but it's obviously an added plus.
The Thunder created a $3.8 million trade exception, which expires in a year. The Thunder have a talent at acquiring trade exceptions and rarely end up using them, but they come in handy when you need it. Like last season when it enabled them to trade for Dion Waiters.
With two players going out and one coming back, the Thunder now have 14 players under contract, clearing an available roster spot for any potential buyouts. The Thunder have pounced on the buyout market in the past, scooping up Derek Fisher and Caron Butler. And with the money saved, they can use their mini-mid-level exception on say, Joe Johnson (if he were to become available), giving them a possible advantage to outbid other teams.
The first questions: What does Foye bring to the Thunder? Is he going to play? The answer to those are "not a lot" and "probably not much," but from the Thunder's perspective, not only were they able to accommodate Augustin's desire for more playing time elsewhere in a contract year, but they also added a player with the kind of versatility that could at least conceivably allow him to contribute. By trading Augustin, who lost his backup point guard role in December to rookie Cameron Payne, the Thunder no longer have a third point guard on the roster, but Foye is a capable option in a pinch, along with being an option at shooting guard alongside Russell Westbrook. Augustin and Novak weren't playing in anything other than an emergency situation. Foye, at least, could play and be useful in certain lineups.
Now, the second: Does this move the needle for the Thunder in terms of closing the perceived gap on the Warriors or Spurs? Foye is 32 years old and shooting a career-low 35 percent from the field this season. So definitely no, but it certainly doesn't set them back in any way. It does give them at least another option, especially against the guard-heavy Warriors, to play unique combinations.
And if you ask the Thunder, they feel as if they're right there, anyway.
"I've been confident since the season started that we have what it takes to win a championship," Westbrook said Wednesday. "I like our team and I like where we are."
The Thunder are 40-14, having gone 19-4 since Christmas and winning 30 of their past 37. In a new system under Billy Donovan, as well as meshing new roster pieces that were added last season, the Thunder have clearly been trending in a positive direction and there was a strong resistance from the front office to mess with that. Like a lot of teams, the Thunder wanted wing help, specifically a sturdy two-way option at the 2, but to find that could require them parting with talented youth, like Payne or Steven Adams. And that was entirely off the table for them.
The other angle, of course, is Kevin Durant's pending free agency. The Thunder didn't feel any urgency entering the deadline to make a splashy move to try and make a point to Durant. That's one part because there was too much risk involved, another part because they're really good, and another part because there was no pressure coming from Durant to do so.
"I trust Sam 100 percent," Durant said on Wednesday. "Whatever he does I know it's for the betterment of the organization and the team. So, whatever he chooses to do I'm happy with it and I'm going to support it. I'm not one of those guys that needs so much or wants to know every single move. It's part of the game and I've got to roll with the punches, and whatever happens, happens and I've got to be a good leader no matter what."
The Thunder are clearly betting on the roster they have in place. They weren't willing to entertain any offer that included their long-term core. The focus Thursday wasn't to win the trade deadline with some bold move. They already feel as if they're good enough to win something bigger.