Thunder @ the Trade Deadline

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Updated: December 23, 2021
Giddy SGA

The Oklahoma City Thunder have acquired more 1st round draft picks than any other team in the history of basketball. Their success has been quite controversial across the league as they have collected (or hoarded) an exceptional surplus of draft capital from now until the 2028 season. For many, Sam Presti and the OKC front office have done a miraculous job in manufacturing 1st by taking on bad contracts and then slowly piecing them off for additional value. The other half of analysts across the league have nodded in acknowledgment of the asset treasure chest and have asked, “And so what? Where exactly is this path of so much promise actually leading to?” We have seen in the last two drafts that moving up into the top 10 in the lottery is much easier said than done and with the totality of picks OKC carries with them, they often will be asked for more than market value because of what they have to offer in their large piggy bank.

There were questions of what they would do with regards to their one true on-court asset in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and that seems to have been answered with his rookie max-extension which kicks in next year. Although still only 23 years old, his current contract trajectory essentially starts an invisible clock where this game of tanking and laundering piss pour contract for draft compensation can only last for so long. Although Shai is happy now at 23 about to get paid substantially for the first time in his young career, these next handful of years will dictate if Oklahoma is actually his long-term home.

Kevin O’Connor brought up an interesting idea that hasn’t been talked about much as of yet, and that is the option of OKC becoming a buyer at the trade deadline. Usually, buyers at the deadline are contenders looking for the final piece of the puzzle for their imminent playoff push come springtime. The Thunder who sits at the near bottom of the Western Conference is obviously not in this situation. However, with SGA’s contract trajectory and OKC’s huge amount of open salary available, they may consider acquiring young yet already more established assets, rather than banking on draft picks later down the road.

Kevin O’Connor (KOC) suggested that the Thunder trade for Sabonis, a 25-year-old versatile power forward who is thirsty to score inside and is an above-average facilitator for his position. Another player that has been rumored to be on the trade block with the asking price of a 1st round pick is Atlanta’s young Cam Reddish. Why the Hawks feel it necessary to give up on their young lottery pick is for a different piece, but with regards to the OKC acquisitions, the Thunder have the ability to get both of these young players with a semi-overpay in draft picks and yet still retail of all of their own 1sts and several more. Below are the two exchanges they could and I argue should do simultaneously.