The Oklahoma City Thunder were supposed to play like one of the favorites to win the NBA championship in June. But after nine regular-season games, the star-studded Thunder found themselves one game below .500 (4-5), searching for answers on how to maximize the talent of Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and reigning MVP Russell Westbrook.

Unfortunately for Oklahoma City, they don’t have the luxury of time. Thunder front-office needs to figure out the problem fast or face the consequence of losing two of their stars next summer when both George and Anthony can opt out of the final year on their current deals.

A panel of writers on Sports Illustrated believes the Thunder should pull the trigger on another blockbuster trade if they feel their power trio isn’t good enough for a deep playoff run. George is clearly the Thunder’s most valuable trade asset not named Russell Westbrook. He also holds the key to Oklahoma City’s present and future.

Trading George for rebuilding pieces

The Thunder went all-in by trading for two flight-risk stars in George and Anthony. The general assumption was, Presti made these gambles to ensure Westbrook would sign the record-breaking five-year, $205 million contract extension. With that accomplished, the GM has now shifted his attention to making the Thunder relevant beyond this season.

Although the Thunder have the talents on paper to compete with the Western Conference juggernaut like the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs, there’s no assurance that forming a team led by three bona fide scorers would work out well. Early season hiccups are expected but failing to establish as the clear-cut No.3 team in the Western Conference by February could compel Presti to explore trade options involving George.

The Sports Illustrated article clearly indicated the consequences of trading George for assets before the mid-season trade deadline.

“Trading George before the deadline would represent an abrupt change of direction, it would generate real public blowback, it would throw Anthony's future into question, and it would require another round of patience from Westbrook.

But if Oklahoma City hasn’t climbed firmly into the West’s top three seeds by February, Presti should move George and launch his next retooling plan with haste,” according to Sports Illustrated.

A trade to the Cavs

The Cavaliers are starving for another dynamic player alongside LeBron James. Despite their acquisition of former MVP Derrick Rose and All-Star Dwyane Wade, the Cavs are clearly a different team without Kyrie Irving on their backcourt. A 4-6 start is a proof that Cleveland isn’t elite without another high-caliber LeBron sidekick.

Ironically, Paul George was supposed to be playing for Cleveland right now if only the Cavs’ three-team trade with Indiana Pacers and the Phoenix Suns happened.

They might get another shot at acquiring the talented small forward around February, but the front-office must be willing to let go of that precious Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick if that opportunity arises.

Both the Thunder and the Cavs are in the race against time, but the latter could lose more if they aren’t able to swing for another major trade. The Thunder locked up their best player, Westbrook, for five more years, while the Cavs could lose LeBron, Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose all next summer if change doesn’t happen in Cleveland within the next three months.

Any trade rumors involving George or the Nets’ first-round pick should be labeled ridiculous at this moment.

The season is still too young for the Cavs and the Thunder to make drastic moves. Oklahoma City has 70+ games left on their schedule to build chemistry, while Cleveland is barely at full-force in the first three weeks of the season because of injuries to Thomas, Rose, and Thompson. These teams will stand pat with their current roster until they feel it’s time to shake things up.