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Buffaloes in the NBA: Alec Burks signs with Warriors after Thunder trade

Burks was originally supposed to sign with OKC.

Utah Jazz v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, the NBA went crazy, even by its own standards. Within minutes, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that not only was Kawhi Leonard signing with the LA Clippers, but Paul George would be traded to LA from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

That matters to certain Colorado Buffaloes alumni, specifically Andre Roberson and Alec Burks, the former of whom has been in OKC since being there drafted in 2013, and the latter was set to sign a two-year deal to help the Thunder’s playoff push. Things have changed in OKC and that means things have changed for Roberson and Burks.

Burks was going to be a key bench player in OKC, but because they’re now in rebuilding mode, it doesn’t make sense for him to be there. Burks, 27, will be in his 9th season in the NBA and has playoff experience. He’s best suited as a bench scorer on a playoff team, not on a rebuilding team that is shopping Russell Westbrook and his supermax contract.

Instead, Burks will sign a one-year deal with the Golden State Warriors. After losing Klay Thompson to an ACL tear and with the departure of Kevin Durant to the Nets, the Warriors have needed to retool to remain in contention. Burks is an instant-impact player who provides playmaking, slashing and a bit of shooting. He doesn’t quite move the Warriors to what they were in years past, but he greatly helps their depth, particularly now that Golden State traded Andre Iguodala and waived Shaun Livingston.

As for Roberson, he has two years and $20 million left on his contract with Oklahoma City. He missed all of 2018-19 with a knee injury he suffered in January 2018 and it remains to be seen if he can be the same player. Even if he’s the same — and that’s an All-Defense-caliber defender who can guard 1 through 4 — that contract is a lot for someone whose only offense comes off cuts and offensive rebounds. OKC would probably attach a draft pick if they were to trade him, unless they took on bad money from another team.

The Thunder might keep Roberson, for the time being at least. Their main issue was that they have to pay a massive bill on the luxury tax — they’re the first team to face the repeater tax, which is daunting. OKC just traded Jerami Grant to the Nuggets, which saves them $9 million in salary and $30 million (!!) in taxes. The Thunder would still save a bit on taxes by trading Roberson, but now that Grant and George have been traded, they might not be worrying about that now. And that’s before considering that they’re trying to trade Westbrook and his $38.5 million contract.

After the chaos, it looks like Burks is going to play a crucial role on the Warriors, who figure to be fighting for a top-4 seed in the West. Roberson, meanwhile, will probably stay on a middling Thunder team — they might get the 8 seed! — but hopefully he gets traded to a better team in need of a Kawhi/LeBron/Giannis stopper.