Thunder

Plan for OKC’s Embarrassment of Riches Remains a Mystery

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The Oklahoma City Thunder are sitting on an embarrassment of riches when it comes to draft capital.

Presti’s Pick Plethora Never Stops

OKC General Manager Sam Presti has managed to acquire 34 picks — 17 first-rounders and 17 second-rounders — between now and 2027.

All of this whilst being a win away from the second round of the playoffs just last year.

For a while this season, they were within reach of the play-in threshold. However, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has missed time with plantar fasciitis and Al Horford is no longer active for games.

That means the tank is well and truly on, for the remainder of the current season at least.

Having a pool of picks like this is great, but the Thunder obviously won’t be looking to draft 34 players over the next seven years.

Instead, it’s now down to Presti and his team to figure out how best to use them all. In SGA, they already have a future-superstar guard to build around. Other young players like Luguentz Dort and Darius Bazley who look to be developing into solid role players, too.

The foundations are there. Now it’s time to build a team that can get back to contending. Perhaps not right away, but certainly in the next several years.

Who exactly could Presti and OKC target? Let’s take a look at three options.

Jalen Suggs

It’s safe to say whoever lands Cade Cunningham in this year’s draft is not giving him up. So who’s the next-best option? Enter Jalen Suggs. Coming fresh off of his absolutely insane game winner in this year’s Final Four, Suggs stock is high right now.

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1378545877099311108?s=20

The freshman was vital to Gonzaga’s deep March Madness run this year, averaging 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Pairing him with Gilgeous-Alexander in the backcourt would give OKC one of the best backcourts of the future. An OKC team who has struggled offensively this season, ranking last, would welcome a dynamic guard who can create offense for both himself and his teammates.

Suggs’ impressive season, which unfortunately wasn’t capped off with a title, could cost Oklahoma City more capital than just their first-round pick in this year’s draft. In order to land him, they will likely need a top 2-4 pick. Per Tankathon, the Thunder are currently projected to select 5th.

Similar to the famous Hawks/Mavs trade from 2018, OKC could send their pick + another 1st rounder they own should they land below where Suggs would be selected. Miami’s unprotected pick in 2021 jumps out as the most enticing.

Even with this, however, it might take more than just two picks. Throwing a young guard in the mix like Ty Jerome would only boost their chances of making a successful trade.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the best centers in the league. In many peoples’ eyes he ranks third, only behind MVP candidates Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid. Unfortunately, the Minnesota Timberwolves just can’t seem to build a team around him that is able to challenge for a playoff spot, let alone anything more. His numbers continue to impress, with averages of 25.0 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game this season. If the T-Wolves continue to disappoint, he could look to find himself a new situation.

This would be a difficult trade to pull off for the Thunder due to salaries. OKC’s only asset that could match the salary of Towns would be Al Horford, a veteran who doesn’t suit Minnesota’s timeline. Nevertheless, if OKC offered up a veteran in Horford, a couple of young players and a handful of picks, Minnesota could be convinced.

This might feel like a lot to part with for Thunder fans, especially given the love for Aleksej Pokusevski. With the amount of picks being dealt in trades for stars like Jrue Holiday and James Harden, however, an All-NBA level player like KAT won’t come cheap. Minnesota gets two young players that help fill the void left by Towns, a veteran that can mentor them and several picks.

Presti gets SGA a pick-and-roll partner, who did this to Embiid recently.

Brandon Ingram

After becoming a first-time All-Star and winning MIP last season, everyone expected Brandon Ingram and the Pelicans to make another leap this year.

It’s safe to say that hasn’t quite worked out.

The Pelicans sit 11th in the West and Ingram’s individual numbers are more or less the same as last year. In his first full season, Zion Williamson now leads the Pels in usage rate. He is clearly the future in New Orleans and rightly so, since he is a generational talent. Ingram would provide the Thunder with some much needed scoring, particularly in the frontcourt.

He continues to maintain his offensive presence, though, as hs recently, dropped 36 on his former team.

This is another deal, that because of salaries, wouldn’t be the easiest to pull off. But if the Thunder and Pelicans could strike a deal, pairing Ingram with SGA would make OKC a force for years to come. Similar to the Towns deal, Horford would have to be included to make the salaries match.

After that, what do the Pelicans need? A young guard feels essential along with a wing to replace the Ingram-shaped hole. Completing the deal relies on how many of the almost three-dozen picks OKC would be willing to include.

New Orleans may demand a more exciting prospect like Darius Bazley, which would leave Presti with a harder decision.

Still, if BI is available, you probably move anyone except for SGA. Presti has proven multiple times that he is a genius, though . If there’s anyone that can make this deal happen — without surrendering the young core — it’s him.

What Should Presti Do?

There’s no need to rush into a decision. This is something that could determine the Thunder’s ten-year future. Everything will depend on where OKC’s ping-pong ball lands this offseason– they could always land higher than expected and stumble upon a path to Jalen Suggs without having to make a trade. A star player like Karl-Anthony Towns could publicly demand a trade at some point, which would make Sam Presti’s life much easier.

Even If there’s no obvious move this summer, there’s no need to panic. OKC has time on their side right now and could delay making a major move for another year or two. Either way, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will have a partner in crime soon enough.

Follow us on Twitter @ThunderLead for the latest Thunder news and insight. 

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