The Future of the Oklahoma City Thunder (3/15/21)

Biggest question OKC Thunder GM, Sam Presti must answer in 2019-20 season

The first trade of the season went down a few days ago, with the Thunder trading away a good young player, Hamidou Diallo, to the Detroit Pistons. Hami was averaging 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists before he got traded, all career highs. He was also shooting career highs from the field (48%), from three (29%), and from the free throw line (63%. That’s bad, but still a career high). So he was playing well. The Thunder are surprisingly not the worst team in the league, and Hami’s play was a big part of that. So in trading him away, you would expect a good haul in return. Maybe a solid veteran player (like another George Hill/Al Horford type), or maybe first round pick. Something like that. So what did the Thunder actually get in return?

Well, they got Svi Mykhailiuk. He’s decent. At age 23, he’s a career 37% three point shooter. That’s about all he brings though. He wasn’t even the main asset in the trade. What was?

A seventh grader.

Well, more specifically, a 2027 second round pick. But the player who will be drafted with that pick is currently in seventh grade. That’s insane.

So that leads to a great question: What the heck are the Thunder gonna do with 34 draft picks in the next seven drafts?

Obviously, not every player that they draft will end up on their roster. That’s way too many players. But if they actually use (and don’t trade away) all 19 of their first round picks, I bet all those guys will end up on the team. That’s a great strategy, to be honest. If you draft 19 players in the first round of the NBA draft, and maybe five of them don’t work out, then you still have 14 young players that could be anything from a good role player to a superstar.

The Thunder have five players I could see being on their team long term: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort, Darius Bazely, Aleksej Pokusevski, and Theo Maledon. In the next three drafts, OKC owns 14 draft picks (9 firsts and 5 seconds). So in three years, the Thunder could have the best young core in the NBA.

There’s another way these picks could be used, and that’s in a trade. In the NBA today, almost every trade includes a pick. If you want to trade for an All-Star, you have to throw a ton of draft picks in to get them (Supposedly the Celtics offered 3 first round picks from Jerami Grant recently. Imagine the amount of picks a player like Damian Lillard would require). The Thunder own more than enough picks to get an All-Star. Say in three years, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a certified All-Star. The other young guys, like Bazely and Dort, get better. There are also at least five players from the last three drafts on the team. If that team is winning games, and is hovering around a playoff spot, the Thunder would have the assets to trade for a superstar player that could make them a top team in the league. 

So at the moment, GM Sam Presti is doing something that has never been done before. But it looks really good for him. The team is bursting with potential. Because of the value of all the draft picks Presti has acquired, the future looks very bright for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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