GM Sam Presti has kept it no secret that their rebuilding process will take time, and things will have to fall right into place for them to compete again, but have they arrived there? Potentially so.
Early in the draft process, even before the lottery, I heard rumblings that the Thunder were “very fond of the Gonzaga guys” which mainly included Chet Holmgren. Even when the Thunder had a chance to draft Jabari Smith Jr. or Holmgren, they chose Holmgren.
It’s safe to say the Thunder got their guy.
Presti made a trade that gave the Knicks three protected first-round picks for pick no. 11 which turned into Ousmane Dieng. The Thunder’s lottery capped off with the 12th pick in Jalen Williams. All three guys were guys Presti liked and wanted. He even made a trade to bring one of them in. About that trade, all three picks are protected, which turn into this:
- Detroit Pistons 2023 top-18 protected.
- Denver Nuggets 2023 top-14 protected.
- Washington Wizards 2023 top-14 protected.
With Jaylin Williams picked at pick no. 34, the Thunder got their guys, including Williams at 34, because they could have easily dumped pick no. 34 for nothing and been fine with their three earlier picks.
With the trade with the Knicks, the Thunder and Presti are showing their willingness to move their war chest of picks to set themselves up to compete. Even if they don’t splurge their picks for a star in this next season, it shows the possibility that they’ll do that when the time is right, which is likely the 2023-24 season.
Presti iterated to the media that they’re likely to re-trade JaMychal Green to a better fit for him, which leads me to believe Derrick Favors is on the move as well. The roster is already overloaded, and they’ll have decisions to make as to who to let go, and those two seem like easy picks to be traded for future picks.
Green averaged 6.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16.2 minutes per game off the bench for the Denver Nuggets last season.
Favors averaged 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in an inconsistent role for 39 games for the Thunder last season.
Next Seasons’ Ceiling
It’s unclear if the Thunder will even try to compete next season, but if they remain completely healthy, in a perfect scenario, they could be fighting for a chance at the play-in spot next season.
A starting lineup of Giddey – Gilgeous-Alexander – Dort – Bazley – Holmgren has the potential to have a very, very solid defense and a decent offense. Not to mention, the bench will be full of young, talented role players fighting to make a career in the NBA.
The fifth starting position is up for grabs from Bazley, and it could be many of the guys from the bench, which should fuel the fire and have these guys performing their best.
If the Thunder are trying to land a top pick in the next draft, which would be very difficult, they’d have to rely on resting their top players for a chunk of the season, which seems less beneficial than letting them play and develop as a squad.
It feels like their best route is to compete the best they can with no expectations, and see where their season goes from there.