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The Oklahoma City Thunder may be a year ahead of schedule, but that doesn’t change that they are already one of the best teams in the NBA this season. That status saw the Thunder make a move towards improving their postseason rotation by adding Gordon Hayward.

For the Charlotte Hornets, this trade is another sign that they are turning towards a new era. The Hornets have moved on from Hayward and Terry Rozier during trade season. They’re building with new players around LaMelo Ball, Brandon Miller and Miles Bridges. Some of those new players came in this deal with the Thunder.

Here are the particulars:

Oklahoma City Thunder acquire: Gordon Hayward

Charlotte Hornets acquire: Davis Bertans, Tre Mann, Vasilije Micic, two future second-round picks

Note: Charlotte also waived Frank Ntilikina and Ish Smith to complete this trade.

Let’s dive in!

Oklahoma City Thunder

Incoming salary: $33.3 million in 2023-24

  • Gordon Hayward (SF/SG, one year, $33.3 million)

Outgoing salary: $27.9 million in 2023-24

  • Davis Bertans (PF, two years, $33 million, $5.25 million guaranteed in 2024-25), Tre Mann (PG, two years, $8.1 million, restricted free agent in 2025), Vasilije Micic (PG, three years, $23.5 million, team option for 2025-26)

The Thunder didn’t literally go big in terms of size at the trade deadline, but they did in terms of impact. We’ll put the mandatory caveat right here up front: Gordon Hayward has to stay healthy. But if he does, this is a great pickup for Oklahoma City.

When he’s played during his Charlotte tenure, Hayward has been really good. This season he’s averaging 14.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. Hayward also has 47/36/77 shooting splits on the season. That’s great stuff for a high-end role player.

Unfortunately, Hayward has only played in 25 games this season. That includes missing the Hornets last 22 games with a strained calf.

But let’s be positive and hopeful. Maybe on a better team, with less pressure on him to create offense and fewer minutes, Hayward can hold up physically. If he can, he’s an outstanding fit for the Thunder.

When teams have had success guarding Oklahoma City this season, it’s often come via disregarding Josh Giddey on the perimeter. Multiple teams have guarded Giddey with their center floating off him to help against drives. The prevailing theory is that if you lose because Giddey hit four or five three-pointers, you tip your cap and move on.

Now, if that strategy is working for opponents, the Thunder can pull Giddey and replace him with Hayward. That’s a completely different math for opponents. You can’t leave Hayward open. And he provides all the same ballhandling and playmaking as Giddey, and Hayward is nearly as good of a defender too.

Yes, this could fail to work if Hayward can’t get and stay healthy. But it’s a worthy gamble for Oklahoma City to consolidate some pieces. The upside is there, and the Thunder are starting to run out of roster spots to keep everyone anyway.

As far as the future goes, Oklahoma City got out of some money for next year that is owed to the trio of Bertans, Mann and Micic. They’ve got even better flexibility now. The Thunder could go under the cap and create about $30 million in cap space. Of they could stay over the cap, re-sign Hayward and work with the MLE.

A lot of the offseason approach will probably depend on what happens with Hayward and the rest of this season. If he works and the team has a nice postseason, the Thunder will probably invest at least some of that flexibility in re-signing Hayward. If not, they can move on and have a bunch of cap space with only minor roster holes to fill. That’s a pretty great place to be in, both now and moving forward.

Charlotte Hornets

Incoming salary: $27.9 million in 2023-24

  • Davis Bertans (PF, two years, $33 million, $5.25 million guaranteed in 2024-25), Tre Mann (PG, two years, $8.1 million, restricted free agent in 2025), Vasilije Micic (PG, three years, $23.5 million, team option for 2025-26)

Outgoing salary: $33.3 million in 2023-24

  • Gordon Hayward (SF/SG, one year, $33.3 million)

The Hornets have reset things in a major way throughout the course of trade season. They moved off of long-term money for Terry Rozier and P.J. Washington in previous deals. And they cleared minutes and an offseason roster question by trading Hayward in this deal.

For the players coming in, Mann and Micic should both a chance to play. Charlotte has been piecing things together at point guard while LaMelo Ball has missed time. With Mann and Micic, they get two very different, but capable point guards. Mann is more of a get-it-and-go type, while Micic is an old school, probing playmaker. Both should have more opportunities to play with the Hornets, especially while Ball remains out.

Bertans is in a weird spot. He could theoretically provide the Hornets with some perimeter shooting, but he’ll be behind a few other guys for minutes in the frontcourt. This one could end up in a waiver, or maybe Charlotte carries Bertans into the offseason for trade purposes.

Mostly, this deal was about adding some additional draft capital for the Hornets, and taking flyers on the point guards. They’ve rebuilt their draft coffers during trade season by a good amount. And they have some cap flexibility this summer too. Pending what happens with Bridges, the Hornets could have nearly $26 million to spend.

Here’s the key: Charlotte can’t get impatient and overpay veterans just for a minor lift. They’re better off building around their younger players and signing free agents to value deal. Spending it all in one place has rarely worked for this franchise in the past. Let’s see if they’ve learned from that mistake.