The Oklahoma City Thunder are building for the future with young talent and draft picks. While the young players have performed well, adding a few free agents could help grow the core.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the star of the team, who had another great season before going down with an injury. He averaged a career-high 24.5 points per game, along with five rebounds and 5.9 assists. He shot 45.3 percent from the field and 30 percent from three. While the shooting splits could be improved, Gilgeous-Alexander has showcased that he is the player for the Thunder to build around.
In the 2021 draft, Oklahoma City drafted point guard Josh Giddey, who complimented Gilgeous-Alexander well. Giddey was in Rookie of the Year conversations prior to suffering a season-ending injury. Giddey averaged 12.5 points per game, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.4 assists. His playmaking and all-around game allow Gilgeous-Alexander to shoulder the scoring load.
The Thunder have developed solid young role players around them but could use more starter quality players for the future. Free agency is a perfect opportunity for Oklahoma City, especially with the cap space they possess.
With that said, here are two early targets for the Thunder in 2022 NBA free agency.
Thunder Free Agency Targets
2. Miles Bridges
Miles Bridges is in the midst of a career year with the Charlotte Hornets and is set to be a free agent. Bridges is a restricted free agent, which means the Hornets can match a contract offer from another team.
This season, he is averaging 20.3 points per game, paired with seven rebounds and 3.7 assists. Bridges is shooting 49.3 percent from the field and 33.2 percent from behind the arc. His explosiveness makes him an elite lob threat. He can score at all three levels and would be a great forward next to the guard duo of Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey.
Bridges is also a good defender, which would give Oklahoma City a lockdown defender to put on opposing forwards. If the Thunder can poach Bridges away, he will help the team have an even brighter future and young core.
1. Deandre Ayton
Another restricted free agent that could go elsewhere is Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton. Phoenix has not committed to signing him to a long-term deal. Ayton is a double-double machine with more potential to unlock on offense. This season, he is averaging 17.2 points per game along with 10.2 rebounds. Ayton is shooting 63.4 percent from the field and thrives at scoring at the rim.
He also has a solid mid-range jump shot, which helps him create easier opportunities in the paint.
Ayton would be an excellent complement to the Thunder’s guard duo as a rising star controlling the paint. The Suns have players on expensive players already and also have Cameron Johnson as an impending free agent.
This leaves the door open for the Thunder to make an offer to sign Ayton.
Ayton and Bridges would be great fits alongside the rest of the young core. With a plethora of draft picks and young players, Oklahoma City has the freedom to take a chance on young players with star potential.
The Thunder are 24-57 on the season and are projected to have a top pick in the draft. This will allow them to bring in another young guy to develop and become a cornerstone of the franchise. The Thunder could take a big leap next season if they can pair their roster with quality free agents like Ayton and Bridges.