OKC & SAC: Chips into Cash

Updated: June 22, 2022

Two corresponding rumors overlap on top of the brinks of the upcoming 2022 draft. In a class that has more or less cemented its top 3 selections, it is the Sacramento Kings’ pick at 4 that has been said to be on the trade market for the taking. Though most pragmatic analysts that diligently follow the association have pleaded for Sac to come to terms with their undersized 1-way guard De’Aaron Fox and his impact ceiling, the Kings instead have doubled down on their once 25-per-game scorer at the trade deadline. Moving off of blue-chip asset Tyrese Haliburton for high motor 4/5 Domantas Sabonis in the Indiana trade, Sac’s frontcourt has essentially been solidified in Fox and last year’s lottery pick Davion Mitchell.

The assumption around the league is that with the Kings’ fixation on breaking their lottery streak and finally making the playoffs this upcoming season, they are looking to shop the 4th pick which in most mock drafts is predicted to be the explosive guard, Jaden Ivey. In the short sample provided in the latter half of the season, the Fox + Sabonis combination looked rather lethal on the offensive end of the floor, yet it would be hard to find even the most casual fan around the River City to think this offensive punch would be enough to outweigh their defensive limitations as currently constructed.

This is where the OKC Thunder come into the equation. The Sam Presti administration currently holds the rights to the 2nd, 12th, and 30th, picks in this year’s draft, along with enough future draft capital to start a second franchise in Oklahoma. Last offseason, they were rumored to try and cash in on some of these picks on Evan Mobley yet none of the top 3 teams were interested in a 5 quarter for a dollar exchange. There is something sacrilegious about a rebuilding franchise passing on a top 3 pick for late firsts that can directly build a path towards a GM’s termination when that top pick pops a few years down the road. This year may be different though with the Kings’ situation at 4 and both franchises set on alternative trajectories.

Jaden Ivey is an explosive high ceiling shooting guard who some believe is the black horse for best player in the draft. This sentiment is especially popular amongst analysts who value guards and primary scoring options over size. He is devastating in transition and cutting to the rim but has yet to develop much of a mid-range game and can be a streaky shooter from distance. However, with his size, facilitating skills, and especially his first step, it’s not hard to imagine what he could be with NBA spacing and the right pieces around him.

Though Ivey already has a grown man’s body, he is not expected to be is an immediate impact system player who can fit in next to a ball-dominant point guard like De’Aaron Fox. There have been discussions about players like Jeremy Grant from Detroit or John Collins from Atlanta being in play for the 4th pick yet most around the league feel the value of those two players and their current contracts are not on par with the value associated with the 4th selection in this year’s loaded draft class.

Instead, what Sacramento could explore is loading themselves with additional assets for another big upgrade come the trade deadline by trading down with OKC at 12 who is thirsty to add Ivey into their oversized backcourt. Usually trading down, especially in the top 5 is frowned upon and difficult to execute, however, the Thunder have the ability to overpay to lubricate the deal. They also have been rumored to be willing to add bulldog and defensive specialist Lu Dort into the equation.

The Kings have several options in this off season to retain moveable contracts depending on how much they’re willing to spend. Jeremy Lamb, Donte DiVincenzo, Richaun Holmes, and Josh Jackson are all free agents they have birds rights for this summer. Since they still retain their own picks in addition to these acquired assets, they could go big fish hunting at the deadline with a clearer sense of what this roster may be missing come February. Lu Dort would also be an excellent addition to any roster. With him and Damion Mitchell, they could have a hound dog on the floor all 48 minutes harassing the littered bunch of top-tier guards that reside in the West.

For the Thunder, regardless of which of the 3 tier-1 players they get at 2 between Chet, Jabari, and Paolo, Jaden Ivey begins to solidify this rebuild into an OKC KD/Russ/Harden 2.0. Even after overpaying to move up from 12 to 4, they still would retain more picks moving forward than any team in the NBA. The question for years has been what exactly all these late first-rounders will actually equate to when push comes to shove and Presti is hoping to translate some of his ceramic chips into cash. A starting lineup sporting SGA, Ivey, Giddy, Chet Holmgren, and the 30th pick in the draft all of sudden become the most exciting young starting 5 in all of basketball.

Rarely has a team been willing to spend such an abundance of assets to move up to 4 and yet no team has ever had this big of a treasure chest in a rebuild like the Thunder currently carry with them on the eve of the draft. Both teams may be able to capitalize on each other’s perceptions of themselves, where Sac stands in a delusion of upward mobility and OKC is willing to overspend and pay the tax of having too many chips at the table.

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