OKLAHOMA CITY If you were waiting, hoping and anticipating Oklahoma City would make a last-minute deadline deal that would put it a step closer to a parade down the streets of the city, well, it didn't happen.
Yes, the Thunder are still a championship contender, but are they better than they were 24 hours ago?
Also a yes.
The Thunder are in need of a third scorer behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. They also could use a bit more offense from the center position, but talks of Jermaine O'Neal from Phoenix or Al Jefferson from Utah ended up being just talk. The Thunder didn't pick up that extra scoring threat either.
Instead the Thunder received a trade exception from Portland for Eric Maynor and acquired Ronnie Brewer from the New York Knicks for a 2014 second-round pick.
Neither move makes you think Oklahoma City is doing any early ring-sizing, but while Maynor was doing nothing on the bench, the Thunder improved by slightly upgrading with Brewer and giving away very little in return. Meanwhile, they got a bit of financial relief for Maynor, a player they were likely to lose after this season, due to free agency.
This certainly doesn't suggest Brewer is the piece the Thunder have been missing. But he is proven, considered a good perimeter defender who provides pretty much what DeAndre Liggins does, but with more scoring a with a veteran's track record. Brewer is a career 48 percent shooter in the playoffs and the 6-foot-7 swingman has started 301 games, averaging 8.4 points per game in the regular season. He's played in 34 games this season for the Knicks, shooting 36 percent and playing 15.5 minutes per game.
The move pretty makes Liggins an afterthought and sends him back to the bench and possibly back to the D-League team in Tulsa.
While this isn't the kind of move that shifts the balance toward Oklahoma City over Miami, but it doesn't exactly hurt, either. Expect Brewer to see more time than Reggie Jackson, as Brewer does have extensive playoff experience, playing most-notably with the Jazz for three seasons and the Bulls the past two.
The Thunder still have just two point guards on the roster Westbrook and Jackson so making another move isn't out of the question, but the Thunder didn't stand still Thursday. They made a move to improve defensively. The Thunder are 16th in the league in points allowed at 97.7 per game, including giving up 46 points to James Harden Wednesday night in Houston. They need to do something about limiting perimeter scoring.
General manager Sam Presti hasn't whiffed yet. He's the guy who drafted Harden and Westbrook. He's the guy who brought Maynor to the team and also Kendrick Perkins. Until one of his moves is proven to be a flop, Presti deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Oklahoma City improved on Thursday. Even if it's just slightly.
1 There's no other way to look at it, but the loss to Houston on Wednesday has to be considered a bad one. Not only did the Thunder lead by 14 points with less than eight minutes to go, it was a loss to Harden, giving life to all those who think Oklahoma City can't win without him. Meanwhile, the Thunder turned it over 22 times and their best asset the duo of Durant and Westbrook was single-handedly beaten by Harden, who outscored the two.
It's just a single loss to Houston. Remember, the Thunder had already beat Harden and the Rockets twice this season. That's it for the season series with these two, but they could meet up in the first round of the playoffs as either a 1-8 or 2-7 situation. Would love to see what Harden does against the Thunder in the playoffs. It would definitely be a fun series.
2 The Thunder have been very good at home, but it's starting to look like they are just average on the road. The loss Wednesday to Houston drops Oklahoma City to 16-11 away from home this season. The bad news is, that record could worsen in the very, near future. The Thunder's next three road games are at Denver, at the Clippers and at the Knicks. A 2-1 trip through those three would have to be considered good. An 0-3 sweep would tend to make me finally concede this team isn't as good as last year.
Yes, the Thunder were able to make the NBA Finals, despite not having home-court advantage a season ago, but do you really want to see this team with a Game 7 at San Antonio or at the Clippers? Home-court advantage seems close to necessary if the Thunder are going to make a return trip the Finals.
3 The Thunder received about everything they could have out of Maynor. The one-time back-up I say "one time" because Maynor hasn't even played in 17 of Oklahoma City's past 27 games is gone to Portland for a trade exception. What people like most about Maynor is the idea of Maynor. He played well two seasons ago in the playoffs backing up Westbrook, but remember, he was out of the rotation for a reason. Maynor lost his spot to Jackson about 25 games into the season. Who knows if Maynor is fully recovered from the ACL injury which caused him to miss nearly all of last season.
While Oklahoma City was hoping to land a first-round draft pick for Maynor, his value was pretty much limited considering the Thunder rarely played him. Maynor was not in OKC's rotation, essentially making his trade stock really low. And before anyone gets sentimental about Maynor, realize he was likely gone after this season anyway as a restricted free agent.
"I want to thank the Oklahoma City Thunder for everything the last 3 years......appreciate all the love n support from the fans as well......" Maynor (EMaynor3) on Twitter after it was announced he was traded Portland on Wednesday.
46: Number of playoff games Brewer has played in
18.4: Average number of minutes by Brewer in the playoffs
23: Number of playoff games Maynor has played in
12.9: Average number of minutes by Maynor in the playoffs
31.3: Percent Maynor is shooting this season
49.3: Career shooting percentage for Brewer
The Thunder get their first home game after the All-Star Break on Friday vs. Minnesota and are at home Sunday against the Bulls and then Wednesday against the Hornets. The Thunder's next road game is Friday, March 1 at Denver. This should be a good week to get newcomer Brewer into the mix and a good chance for the Thunder to go 3-0 and get healthy at home.
Tower of Power
Not going to lie, the loss at Houston feels like a gut punch. It also means three losses in a row for the first time this season. It doesn't diminish the fact the team is still among the NBA's elite, but it does show there are some weaknesses on this team.
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter @theandrewgilman