NBA Trade Deadline: Who Really Won the Thunder-Bulls Trade?

At first glance, it seems like the Thunder got the better of the Bulls, but is that really the case?

Since the Sacramento Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans Sunday night, not much has materialized on the NBA trade front. The lack of one more big deal, involving a Jimmy Butler, Paul George, or Andre Drummond, left fans starving for more.

At the expense of the everyday fan, the string of transactions leading up to today's 3:00 deadline were of the less anticipated variety. They were mostly smaller exchanges of pieces and picks. A few playoff teams got in the mix, and one of them was the Oklahoma City Thunder.

With roughly 15 minutes left on the clock, the Chicago Bulls agreed to trade Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott, and a 2018 second-round pick to the Thunder for Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Anthony Morrow.

To the naked eye, it sure seems like the Thunder got the best of the Bulls' front office. But is that true?

Chicago Bulls

The word is that the Bulls see Payne as their point guard of the future. And if they're fully committed to moving on from the failed Rajon Rondo project, that's great.

On the other hand, Payne's an unproven commodity. At 22 years old, he's played in just 77 games through one-plus seasons in the league. In those contests, he's averaged just 13.2 minutes a game primarily as the backup to starting point man Russell Westbrook.

With such a small sample size, it's hard to tell whether Payne has been successful in his role with Oklahoma City and whether his game will translate to a starting role with the Bulls, now or in the future. The youngster has averaged just 5.1 points per game on an effective field goal percentage of 44.9%. Per 36 minutes, he's hit a respectable 1.8 threes but on 31.9% shooting from beyond the arc.

Therein lies his biggest weakness, something the Bulls will have to work on as he progresses through the end of the season. On the plus side, Payne should have the opportunity to show off his skills. As I mentioned, the Bulls are over Rondo, and Jerian Grant has mustered just 5.7 points and 1.6 assists in 47 appearances this season.

Clearly, Payne was the big get for Chicago here. Lauvergne and Morrow were more or less cash-carriers to make the deal work. Lauvergne will be added to the rotation in place of Gibson and will likely take up residence behind the likes of Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic.

As for Morrow, his contract is the most important contribution. On the season, he's produced 5.8 points and 0.9 threes across 15.7 minutes per game as an outside threat off the bench. More appealing is the fact that his $3.5 million comes off the books at the end of the season, opening up room for management to add pieces around Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade. And that's just a part of how the Bulls are preparing for a re-structuring.

At the end of the day, they took in $7.3 million in contracts, meanwhile ridding themselves of Gibson's expiring contract and $11.4 million in salaries for this season. For a struggling franchise, every dollar counts, and if you can grab a young talent like Payne in the process, more power to you.

Oklahoma City Thunder

On the opposite side of the player swap, the Thunder -- who are already strapped for cash -- took on over $4 million more in salaries. But, at the same time, they gain important pieces for this year's playoff run and possibly even more.

At the end of this season, they'll have their options as to what to do with a valuable four-man in Gibson. He's likely to require more than $10 million per year in today's market, but there's a chance the Thunder are willing to let him go with rookie Domantas Sabonis waiting in the wings.

For now, the eight-year veteran will take over Sabonis' starting role. While it's important for Sabonis to gain experience in the regular season, Gibson's skillset will be necessary if the Thunder hope to pull an upset over a team like the San Antonio Spurs or Houston Rockets in the first round.

Gibson brings a combination of defensive versatility and an ability to stretch the floor from the power forward position. This year, he has posted a defensive rating of 108 points allowed per 100 possessions -- the same as Sabonis, but Gibson has shown that he can be much better in the past, with a rating of 103 or better in each of his first five seasons.

To boot, although he doesn't present the same threat that the younger Sabonis is from three, Gibson is shooting 40.5% from 10 to 16 feet this year and, as an experienced screener, will be a welcome sight for Westbrook and the Thunder.

The same can be said for Doug McDermott, but for other reasons. The Thunder are currently 24th in the league with 8.4 three-point makes per game and are ahead of only one team in three-point percentage (32.1%). To say they're desperately in need of outside shooting would be an understatement. Fortunately, that's just what Dougie McBuckets brings to the table.

In 24.5 minutes a game, the 25-year-old shooter has tallied 10.2 points with 1.3 treys per game. He's shooting 37.6% from three on the year, but has been forced to do so alongside Butler, Wade, and other players who clog up the floor. We should expect him to improve upon that number and act as a complement to Andre Roberson's defense at the small forward spot.

That would be pretty solid if that was all Oklahoma City was returning, but they will receive a 2018 second-round pick as well. Of course, we can't imagine the actual value of that pick at this time (especially when the Bulls could go one way or the other), but the more the merrier. If anything, it's another trading chip for Sam Presti to play with.

Short-Term Winner?

Like I said, it's hard to put a finger on what a future pick will yield, let alone a second-round selection. Because of that uncertainty, we're only evaluating the value of the trade at this point in time.

Using our nERD metric -- a player ranking that measures a player's contributions over the course of a season, based on efficiency -- we can see for ourselves which team took more away from this trade.

Breakdown Bulls Thunder
Player nERD InnERD Out
Cameron Payne -0.3 -0.3
Joffrey Lauvergne -0.9 -0.9
Anthony Morrow -1.7 -1.7
Total -2.9 -2.9
Player nERD Out nERD In
Taj Gibson 0.3 0.3
Doug McDermott -0.6 -0.6
Total -0.3 -0.3
Net nERD -2.6 2.6

Surprise! Without even mentioning the attached draft consideration, the Bulls lost the trade for this season pretty clearly, adding one more transaction to a list of questionable calls for Gar Forman and the team's office.

In a nutshell, the Bulls lost an estimated 2.6 wins while the Thunder gained the same amount.

The Thunder should hold their heads high after this one. Even if Gibson walks this offseason, they've unloaded contracts and got a valuable shooter in return.