The trade deadline is a crucial moment for many teams in the NBA as they make decisions to either push for the playoffs or plan for the future. However, the Oklahoma City Thunder are in a unique position. They can keep things as they are and let the season play out. That’s how surprisingly good they’ve been so far in 2022-23. Of course, they can also roll the dice on a big trade, but they shouldn’t. A tweak here or there would do. Here we will look at what potential 2023 NBA Trade Deadline move the Thunder would regret.
With the tight Western Conference standings, the Thunder are in a favorable position for both a playoff spot and lottery odds. They currently have a 24-27 win-loss record. Yes, that’s not exactly sterling, but they’re just 2.5 games away from the sixth seed. On the flip side, they are also half a game away from the 13th seed. Again, that’s a testament to how close the West teams are bunched up. At the same time, the Thunder should not even be in the playoff conversation, but they are.
That said, OKC GM Sam Presti has stated that the front office will be patient during the rebuild. They are committed to not making any impulsive decisions, as the team will determine its own path in due time.
“The longer you want to be good, the more patience it sometimes requires,” Presti memorably said following the 2020-21 season.
Once more, the Thunder are in a favorable position. Their young roster is rapidly improving, and they have a track record of success in recent drafts. They have many draft picks to use as trade assets or to continue building their team through the draft itself. Through 51 games, this Thunder roster has demonstrated that they have elevated to a new level compared to other rebuilding teams like the Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons. Remember also that all these are happening without Chet Holmgren even playing yet. We shudder to think how good they’ll be next season.
The future in OKC…
◽️ Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
◽️ Josh Giddey
◽️ Aleksej Pokuševski
◽️ Chet Holmgren
◽️ Ousmane Dieng
◽️ Jalen Williams
Oh, and currently 11 first-round picks (plus a few swaps) through 2026. pic.twitter.com/ujDv6XZNUD
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) June 24, 2022
With all these said, let’s look at what potential 2023 NBA trade deadline move the Thunder would regret.
Thunder go panic-buying
Oklahoma City is currently in the play-in race and has the potential to move up further in the standings. Although there is a possibility that their current success may fade, it’s also possible that it will continue. As Presti said, they should not give in to their impulses. They need to play out the deadline at the most deliberate pace possible. The most regrettable move here is to panic-buy in the hopes of a late-season playoff surge.
Of course, if the Thunder were built for it, a more aggressive approach during the deadline would be desirable. Their top four highest-paid players (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, Josh Giddey, and Holmgren) are unlikely to be traded. Meanwhile, Ousman Dieng is one to watch. Remember that he only earns $4.6 million despite being the team’s fifth-highest-paid player.
The Thunder face two challenges in the near future. To be specific, they have limited matching salary and roster slot uncertainty. They are expected to have one open slot this summer, which they will fill with their own first-round pick or the Clippers’ pick. They are unlikely to complicate this situation. This is especially with more first-round picks coming their way.
Despite these challenges, it would still be good for the Thunder to possibly explore a tweak in the roster. Again, just a tweak — not a shuffle. The Thunder could benefit from more shooting. Although they have ranked pretty high in three-point accuracy since January, they need a higher-volume shooter. The main tradable here is Darius Bazley. His expiring contract and some low-value assets should be enough to acquire an available shooter in the market. Names like Houston’s Garrison Mathews, Charlotte’s PJ Washington, or even Brooklyn’s Seth Curry come to mind.
The main premise is this — despite making significant progress, the Thunder must exercise patience to ensure long-term success. That is their top priority over and above anything else. The Thunder may not be making big moves during the trade deadline, but this is because letting the season unfold is the best course of action for them.