Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder did it again, adding yet another first-round pick to his treasure trove with the Kemba Walker deal. The Thunder are getting the No. 16 pick in 2021 along with Walker and a 2025 second-round pick in exchange for Al Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second-round pick.
OKC got a first-round pick for taking on Horford from the Philadelphia 76ers last offseason, so getting another one while trading him away this time is a stroke of genius. It’s how Presti has operated the past few years during the Thunder’s rebuild, constantly swinging deals to build up his stash of draft capital, and he’ll likely try to do the same with Walker. They truly have an obscene amount of picks in their stash, and the question becomes just how they’re going to use those picks in order to build a contending roster.
OKC already has a rising star in 22-year-old Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and some other interesting young pieces, but obviously much more top-end talent is needed. As a small-market team, hoarding draft picks to either pick potential stars in the draft (trading up makes a lot of sense) or consolidating them in star trades is often the best way to go. Presti will be ready to strike when the time comes, but when will that be?
First off, in this draft, the Thunder currently have three first-round picks. They have a 45.1% chance to stay in the top four and an 11.5% chance to get No. 1. This gives them a lot of flexibility and multiple chances to get another star. OKC would get a fourth first-round pick if the Houston Rockets fall out of the top four.
When it comes to a star trade, it’s impossible to say exactly when that could happen, but things move quickly in the NBA. You never know when that next blockbuster is going to be, especially now when player movement happens so frequently and often out of nowhere.
There are already rumblings of Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson being dissatisfied in their respective situations, and while nobody actually expects them to go anywhere anytime soon, the Thunder could put together quite a hefty trade package if things go off the rails with those stars. There’s also the Damian Lillard situation to monitor in Portland, and there are plenty of other good players out there who could be had in deals, even if they’re not the best of the best.
Other front offices will surely try to force Presti to overpay in trades because he has so many picks at his disposal and the OKC market isn’t exactly a glamour market where players want to be. However, having so many picks makes overpaying not a big deal. The Thunder can afford to give up a bit more if it means they’re getting exactly what they want in return.
Presti is running a fascinating experiment in Oklahoma City after losing his own stars over the years. It will be interesting to see when he goes into attack mode with these picks in order to legitimately improve the roster around SGA. The Thunder will be a team to watch in the coming years.