The Oklahoma City Thunder are entering the new season without any immediate expectations of a winning record. The front office has been on a tear lately, getting first and second-round selections to build a massive haul of future draft assets. As always in the NBA, when rebuilding is the agenda of a franchise, the current team suffers. That will definitely prove the case for the Thunder in 2021-22. Other than Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, there isn’t a surefire long-term starter on Sam Presti’s roster.
It’s all about the future in Oklahoma City, and these two trades would go a long way toward ensuring the Thunder’s success in the long run.
Potential Thunder Trades
Marvin Bagley to Thunder; Derrick Favors and pick(s) to Kings
The Thunder are stacking potential talent everywhere, but there is a noticeable void in the middle. Right now, Derrick Favors is the only traditional center on the roster and it’s obvious Oklahoma City isn’t a great for the veteran at this point of his career. In Sacramento, however, there’s a player who is desperately looking for a new home who could find it in Oklahoma City.
Bagley is an undeniably gifted prospect, not someone who just stumbled into being the second overall pick of the 2018 NBA draft. Luka Doncic would’ve been a better pick, of course, but Bagley wasn’t considered some irresponsible reach. There’s obviously some talent here, and and it’s clear Bagley is being wasted in Sacramento. He’s been stagnating since his rookie season, clearly not responding well to what the Kings are doing on either end of the floor. The Thunder, meanwhile, would provide a great environment for his development, surrounded by other young players.
Bagley has a good NBA body and a solid skill set, but the Kings’ penchant for dysfunction is not something players of his caliber can avoid. A change of scenery would do good for him, and not just because he’d seemingly step into a starting spot right away. If Bagley could develop a connection with Gilgeous-Alexander, they’d emerge as a solid inside-outside foundation for the Thunder to continue building around.
The Kings, on the other hand, would get some valuable draft picks. Bagley might be struggling and stagnating, but some teams still might think he’s worthy of a protected first-round pick. With the Thunder trading for him, the Kings would have a plethora of future picks to choose from. Favors would most likely be dealt right away to a team that would value his veteran leadership and experience, meaning the Kings would be able to squeeze out at least one more second-round selection out of the whole situation.
Kevin Porter Jr. to Thunder; multiple picks to Rockets
When the Rockets selected Jalen Green with the second pick in the 2021 NBA draft, it was clear that he’s the person they want to build around. Unfortunately for Kevin Porter Jr., they play similar styles at a similar size, making it possible Houston would be best-served long-term by playing them separately. A decrease in touches and minutes, needless to say, wouldn’t be optimal for Porter’s development after his breakout second half with the Rockets last season.
As a result, this trade makes sense. If the Rockets were to make this deal with the Thunder, Porter might get them at least one first-round pick and a few second-round selections, key considering Houston might ultimately have to include draft compensation to get off John Wall’s albatross contract. That draft capital is of supreme importance to teams in positions similar to Houston, so parting with Porter would be worth it.
The Thunder would be interested in this deal to increase their army of young prospects on the roster. Gilgeous-Alexander is developing into a great NBA player, while youngsters like Josh Giddey, Tre Mann, Luguentz Dort and Aleksej Pokusevski all provide the Thunder with room to grow. But even with all this talent, it never hurts to add more, and Porter arguably has a higher ceiling than any player currently on the roster outside Gilgeous-Alexander.
Porter has shown in Houston that he can be a dangerous three-level scorer from the wing, and also exhibited impressive raw playmaking chops late last season while moonlighting as a point guard. His efficiency needs serious work, as he only shot 42.5 percent from the field and 31.1 percent on three-point shots a year ago, but the Thunder have all the time in the world to make sure he develops properly.
The Thunder might not be a team that makes the playoffs or challenges for the title in the next few years, but they’re assembling a promising team for the future—and the additions of Bagley or Porter Jr. would only make it brighter.