With the incredible success of the Oklahoma City Thunder so far in their 2023-24 campaign, the excitement level was enormous for their franchise to acquire an All-Star caliber player at the NBA trade deadline, so they can legitimately compete for a championship. The Thunder have an excellent combination of draft capital and young assets they could have packaged together to acquire a popular name to help bolster the performance of their squad.
However, General Manager Sam Presti continues to have a patient approach to making the big splash, so he decided on a smaller move by getting the expiring contract of Gordon Hayward from the Charlotte Hornets for players who will unlikely crack the playoff rotation. It was a brilliant acquisition for the Thunder because it is a low-risk, high-reward decision for Presti and the crew.
Since the Hayward deal was completed hours before the 3 pm ET trade deadline, the expectation was for OKC to continue to pursue this approach, but they decided to hold back for the moment.
Not adding another big with Chet Holmgren
Clint Capela, Nic Claxton, and Andre Drummond are some of the many names that would have been a terrific addition to the unit of Thunder coach Mark Daigneault.
These players could have played the backup 5 or even the starting center spot because Chet Holmgren with sliding to the 4 because of his sensational athleticism and superb versatility. The rationale for doing this is to be more efficient when utilizing Holmgren because if he is the lone big on the floor, he will exhaust a ton of more energy on defense, and he will be susceptible to foul trouble.
The Thunder may have another plan with its rotation of the bigs, but the team could have emulated how the 2020 Los Angeles Lakers surrounded Anthony Davis with other big men who excel on the defensive end like Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee. Davis was able to become a better help defender while expending a ton of his energy on the offensive side of the ball.
The problem that is being foreseen by a multitude of individuals is when Holmgren starts struggling in the brightest lights, Daigneault has no other reliable option who can be a fantastic asset to their rotation. Kenrich Williams and Jaylin Williams are decent NBA players, but they are not the type of guys you would play for more than 20 minutes in a seven-game series.
It must also be mentioned that Holmgren is still a rookie in the NBA, so there is still a plethora of learning curves for him in this long 82-game season. Thus, it is difficult for him to have heightened expectations right away and expect him to compete nip-and-tuck with Davis or Nikola Jokic in the playoffs. The Thunder have been experiencing tremendous success this year, but they're important games wherein their lack of size was an issue.
Also, OKC can find inspiration from the playoff rotation that the Denver Nuggets had last year because of the immense length, height, and versatility they had from all the eight or nine guys they would utilize. The Thunder do have the athleticism and youth as their edge against the opponents, but there are times when the height difference will be a telling difference.
The addition of Hayward will be an upgrade to their closing lineup as he can likely be slotted into the spot of Josh Giddey. Even with the arrival of Hayward, it was possible to add another big which could propelled them to greater heights in the playoffs.