The Oklahoma City Thunder completed a trade Thursday that sends Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow to the Chicago Bulls for Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson and an unprotected 2018 second-round pick.
To make the deal work, the Thunder are using a portion of their trade exception created in a trade earlier this season that sent Ersan Ilyasova to Philadelphia, sources told ESPN.
In landing Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson from the Bulls, the Thunder addressed two key areas of need as they prepare for the postseason push.
Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti said he likes where his team is after the moves.
“I think that we’re a better team this evening than we were this morning, because I think we were able to add some things to help our teams in terms of the collective, the aggregate,” he said. “How much? I don’t know how to answer that. We have to see how we play.”
McDermott, 25, was drafted 11th overall in 2014 and is averaging 10.2 points in 44 games this season. He’s shooting 37 percent from 3 and will fill a significant area of need for the Thunder as a perimeter shooter and scorer.
Gibson, 31, is averaging 11.6 points and 7.0 rebounds in 27.3 minutes per game this season. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Gibson said he felt “a little bit shocked” to learn he had been traded to Oklahoma City after eight seasons with the Bulls.
“We laugh about it. We don’t ever know who’s going to be here, but once I saw the news I was kind of excited but a little bit sad at the same time,” said Gibson, who added that his trade conversation with Bulls executive vice president John Paxson was “emotional.”
“I don’t really see Pax get choked up and teary-eyed,” Gibson said. “But he gave me a long hug, and I got a lot of respect for Pax. He’s like a father figure. He’s a great guy.”
Gibson said the Thunder planned to send a private plane to pick up him and McDermott on Thursday night.
Gibson said he was looking forward to the chance to play with Russell Westbrook.
“That’s my boy,” Gibson said. “I’ve known him since high school. I knew him in college, going against him, but he has always shown me love every time I’ve seen him. He’s a great guy. I’m just hoping to go there and chime in and help any way I can.”
Payne, 22, was selected 14th overall in 2015 by the Thunder, and in 77 career games is averaging 5.3 points and 2.0 assists. He underwent surgery on his right foot to repair a Jones fracture last July and missed 37 games this season. The Thunder believe Payne is set to blossom into an excellent player, but with his playing time limited behind Westbrook, they felt his development would be stunted.
Lauvergne, 25, was acquired by the Thunder during the summer from the Nuggets and appeared in 50 games, averaging 5.7 points and 3.7 rebounds. Morrow, 31, is averaging 5.8 points in 40 games and had spent the past two and a half seasons with the Thunder after signing as a free agent in 2014.
Gibson said he was open to returning to Chicago this summer as a free agent “for the right price.” He also noted that he would be open to returning to the Bulls as a coach once his career ends.
“Right now I’m just like a kid going into a new school,” Gibson said. “I don’t know where to sit on the bus. I don’t know where to sit in classes. It’s a whole new situation for me.”
Gibson said he was unsure a deal would get done, but in the end he felt the Bulls wanted to make sure they got something in return before potentially allowing him to walk away for nothing in the summer as a free agent.
“I felt like it could happen,” he said. “Because … at the same I was, like, they got to get something for me. Because looking at how they lost Joakim [Noah] [last year], they didn’t get anything for Joakim. They didn’t get anything for Pau [Gasol]. So it was only the smart thing for them to do, is try to get something for me while I was still here, which is good for the organization, in my opinion, because you don’t want to let a free agent just walk away without trying to get some pieces.”
In other developments Thursday, a league source said the Celtics never made this year’s Brooklyn No. 1 pick available to the Bulls in trade discussions centered on Jimmy Butler.
“I can tell you … there was nothing remotely close to anybody calling us about Jimmy Butler,” Paxson said. “First of all, Jimmy is a top 10 or 12 player in this league. We value him highly. And unfortunately, sometimes when there’s all this stuff out there, people think they can come in and think maybe you don’t value him. Well, we do value him, and we let people know that. But again, if you’re going to go that direction, you better have certainty that you can get several young assets that are legitimate if you’re going to pull the trigger on that. Those things aren’t even in the realm of possibility right now.”
When asked if the Bulls’ plan was to build around Butler moving forward, Paxson was noncommittal.
“Right now, today, Jimmy’s on our roster,” Paxson said. “And Jimmy’s under contract for two more years. He is a terrific player. You guys know, this league is fluid. Things can change quickly. But again, we have such great respect for Jimmy and his value in this league, and his value is extremely high”.