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Thunder trading Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would be reckless

Thunder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Rebuilding teams with a boatload of draft picks like the Oklahoma City Thunder should always be open to making significant trades. However, that does not mean trading away the best thing your franchise has going for itself. In other words, the Thunder would be out of their minds to move Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

There have been a handful of reports over the last month stating that the Thunder guard could be moved. At first, it was that Gilgeous-Alexander could be included in a blockbuster-like trade. On Monday, it became that he was involved in a trade proposal for the number one pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

Any scenario where the Thunder trade Gilgeous-Alexander is a mistake.

Gilgeous-Alexander has become more productive and impactful in each of his three seasons in the NBA. In his rookie season, he was a steady and consistent force on both ends of the floor for the Los Angeles Clippers. Despite a season that featured midseason turnover, they won 48 games and took the star-studded Golden State Warriors to six games in the first round of the playoffs.

In the ensuing season (his first with the Thunder), Gilgeous-Alexander thrived as part of an essential three-point guard-set with Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder. Last season he stuffed the stat sheet like nobody’s business, averaging 23.7 points, 5.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game while shooting 41.8 percent from beyond the arc.

Gilgeous-Alexander is an all-around player. He gets the ducks in a row, gets to the rack and scores with ease, hits the boards, is an efficient shooter and is a considerable floor general. This isn’t someone you trade for payroll purposes; this is someone you build around.

The reported trade proposal that Thunder general manager Sam Presti made the Detroit Pistons for the number one pick in the 2021 NBA Draft would be to take Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham.

One could argue that Gilgeous-Alexander is an established version of Cunningham, as they’re each tall ball-handlers who impact the game in a multitude of ways. That said, there’s zero guarantee that Cunningham pans out in the pros or becomes what Gilgeous-Alexander has grown into, that being a budding star.

Couple in the fact that they’d be moving the sixth pick in the draft, and this would be a terrible trade for the Thunder from a value standpoint alone. The mere fact that they made this proposal, though, shows that Gilgeous-Alexander could indeed be had. Why else would they offer up one of the best young guards in the NBA for a rookie, no matter how talented and impactful Cunningham may be at the next level?

Now, there’s the injury element with Gilgeous-Alexander, as his 2020-21 campaign ended in March due to a foot injury. Perhaps the Thunder have pause about committing a max contract to him (he can be a restricted free agent next summer)?

Presti and the Thunder are drowned with praise for their absurd collection of draft picks, as they have 18 first-round selections over the next six drafts. Meanwhile, they have roughly $40 million in cap space at their disposal this offseason. All that flexibility is fun and all, but it has to lead to players they can build around, which is why trading up at some point in this draft makes sense for the Thunder (they have three first-round selections). But again: moving Gilgeous-Alexander is not the way to go about this.

Sure, head coach Mark Daigneault has a group of talented, young players who have shown some promise like Luguentz Dort, Darius Bazley, Theo Maledon and Aleksej Pokusevski. At the same time, Gilgeous-Alexander is the lone player on a team playing in a ruthless Western Conference that has shown the ability to be a franchise player. Why would Daigneault want the driving force of his offense to be removed from the rotation?

Rather than move him for three first-rounders or to move up in the upcoming draft, how about the Thunder extend Gilgeous-Alexander and use some of their assets to trade for a difference-maker in his prime like Karl-Anthony Towns or Myles Turner? They could make a move for one of the two big men and still have the ammunition to pull off another significant trade. It’s time for the Thunder to begin turning these assets into players who can make them, at the very least, a playoff contender shortly.

Every NBA Draft has young guards who can score and facilitate. It’s a league stockpiled with high-octane guards, but the Thunder genuinely hit it big by getting Gilgeous-Alexander as part of their return from the Clippers for Paul George in 2019. Why run the risk of missing on a young guard?

Gilgeous-Alexander does it all, has found success in numerous situations and is Oklahoma City’s identity. Moving him further procrastinates the Thunder from getting on a winning path.

The best is yet to come for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Oklahoma City trading the University of Kentucky product would be flat-out reckless.