Finish Line Mail Bag, pt. 1
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We asked our readers on Twitter for their Thunder questions. I vowed to answer every question. Turns out, we had so many responses that for me to hold true to my word, we’ll have to split it up into two journals. Today, Part One.
Let’s open the Tweetbag.
Q: WHATS IN THE FANNY PACK POKU? – PlayoffShai
A: I already asked Aleksej Pokusevski this once and got politely shut down. Although, he chuckled for the first time in a media call, so I found the answer I was seeking. He stores his smile in his fanny pack.
Q: If you could only keep one of Ty, Theo, and Kenrich for the next title run who would you pick? – Sean
A: If Kenrich was four years younger, he’d be the easy choice. He’s still my choice, but hey Theo and Ty, it wasn’t easy.
Q: You are OKC and have the #1 (OWN) + #5 (via HOU) picks in the 2021 Draft. CLE owns the #2 pick and wants to make a deal for #1. OKC receive Darius Garland, #2 pick, 2023 1st. CLE receive #1. If you’re OKC, do you do it? – geola388
A: So the trade is Cade Cunningham for Evan Mobley, Darius Garland, and a 2023 Cavs 1st rounder. I always want the best player, but I think Mobley will be a star as well and Garland is only 21 and already good. I’d do it. Wait. This is basically what the Hawks did for Trae with the Mavs and Luka. I change my answer.
Q: No matter who we draft this off-season, do you think we should make a push for the playoffs next season? – Kee
A: SGA + Cade + Dort would make it tempting to go out and spend a little money on free agents, but I think OKC resists the temptation for one more season. Let Shai + the rookies grow together next year and then make the push the following season.
Q: If we get a top 5 pick, what do you think we do with our 60 mil in salary cap space? – Sam Tomlinson
A: I still think next season will be used to take on bad contracts for assets and then just let the rest go unused. Shai plus a top 5 pick minus Al Horford should still mean one more year of lottery basketball, but not the outright tanking like this season. Look for OKC to start spending some money the following season to ramp up for the next era of playoff hoops.
Q: Any update on Shai’s injury? – Alan
A: At the last update, Mark Daigneault said Shai’s injury was a significant tear. But that was the original diagnosis, so it hasn’t gotten worse. Shai should be fine for next season.
Q: Do you see any big trades by the Thunder this off-season? If so, who do we get rid of? – Garrett Orton
A: Al Horford will be the biggest name the Thunder trade this summer. But the most exciting may come on draft night. Look for Presti to consolidate picks (and possibly players) to move up in the draft if he has a guy he loves, like he did with Poku. Most of the young core is safe for now, but for the right deal, everyone besides SGA is on the table.
Q: Do you think Shai is definitely hurt or is he being held out to maintain the tank? – Jarrett Gregory
A: He’s definitely hurt. But for it to happen when it did was some Doc Brown pinpoint timing.
Q: Long-term, forgetting momentarily the idea of position-less basketball, what are Poku and [Darius] Bazley? – Michael Gleich
A: I think Poku is a small forward. I just don’t know, even with added muscle, if he’ll ever be able to bang down low with the bigs. Darius Bazley is a power forward. He’s too slight to play center, but his aggressive rim running and lack of an outside shot lends itself to the 4 spot.
Q: What players do you see staying on the team long term and short term? – PJ
A: Long term: SGA, Lu Dort, Poku, Ty Jerome, Theo Maledon and Kenrich Williams. Short term: Al Horford.
Q: Who are your top 3 current players on the roster that you believe are best to build around for the future? – OklahomaChief
A: SGA, duh. Lu Dort’s elite defense, improved offense, work ethic, personality and memes make him a no brainer number two. And I’m all in on Poku. That kind of size, skillset and fanny pack is a rare triple threat.
Q: When do you see the Thunder contending? – Logan Gray
A: I’m calling a return to the playoffs in 2023 and contending again in 2024.
Q: If there would be only one spot left next season for Josh Hall, Jaylen Hoard, and Tony Bradley, who would you pick? – ThunderGirl
A: Josh Hall is the most intriguing and has the highest possible ceiling, but he’s the worst player currently. Tony Bradley is more refined and is easily the best player of the bunch, but likely doesn’t have much room to grow. Jaylen Hoard is somewhere in the middle. Normally, I’d go for the young guy with the upside, but Hall hasn’t shown much in his limited minutes. Give me Bradley, an already solid backup center.
Q: Who do you think are the most likely Thunder players to get traded this offseason (not including Horford, who is a foregone conclusion)? – Corey DeMoss
A: I’m gonna hit you with a guy who isn’t even on the Thunder roster yet: Vasilije Micic. Europe’s best guard is itching to come over, his age doesn’t fit OKC’s timeline, and he’s the perfect sweetener to move up in the draft.
Q: How many players on the current roster will remain next season? – Fernando
A: There will be turnover again this season, but it won’t be as drastic as last year. I predict 11 of the current 17 players return.
Q: We get pick 3. Who u takin? – TurtleDeck
A: At pick 3, it’s gotta be one of the Jalens. This is like asking a teenage girl in the late 80s who her favorite Corey was: Haim or Feldman. One was a little more talented overall (Feldman/Suggs) while one was a little sexier (Haim/Green). Give me Feldman. I mean, Suggs.
Q: Would you rather have Cade or two top 5 picks? – Chad Littlejohn
A: I always want the best player. And the idea of a 6’6” SGA + 6’8” Cade backcourt pairing is giving me hot flashes. Knowing Kuminga is one of the two top five picks makes this easy. If it was two of Mobley, Suggs and Green, I’d have to go with the Pick 2 Panera.
Q: What are our chances of getting Austin Reaves? And which pick would it be most likely to happen? – Brian Marshall
A: Pretty solid, actually! The former Oklahoma Sooner is projected to go in the late 2nd round and OKC just happens to have the Nuggets’ late 2nd rounder. Why not use it on the local kid?
Q: If we do take the Rockets’ pick at 5 or lower, who do we take and who gets dropped from the starting line up? – Jake Rhodes
A: If OKC gets Houston’s pick, it’s guaranteed to be #5, which almost certainly will be Jonathan Kuminga. If the Thunder draft him, I see Kuminga taking Bazley’s starting power forward spot.
Q: Are we learning to lose during these losses? How will we win on a consistent basis next year? – M.S.
A: Nah, the Thunder established a winning culture for a dozen years. That won’t be undone due to a month and a half of losing. And these players realize they wouldn’t be losing so much if SGA, Horford and Mike Muscala were playing instead of Charlie Brown Jr., Jaylen Hoard and Josh Hall.
Q: How much would you add to the 5th pick to move up to 2? – Henry Cheng
A: Though this draft has a definite “Big 5” players, Evan Mobley is just a notch below but on the same tier as Cade Cunningham. So I’d add any one draft pick or any player besides SGA to move from Jonathan Kuminga to Mobley. And yes, I realize that implies I’d trade Dort or Poku. I’m putting myself in timeout.
Q: Would you rather: (a) get 20 prime years of Russell Westbrook in OKC but no championships, or (b) KD forms a Russ-less super team in OKC, gets a championship, and then leaves? – Daily Thunder co-owner John Napier
A: First of all, I hate so much about the things you choose to be. Secondly, great question. Usually, I take the title, no questions asked. But this ring rings empty if it’s a soulless super team rental spearheaded by the star who left OKC with no emotional attachments to the rest of the roster. And then we’d be dumped into irrelevancy. Give me two decades of hilarious interviews, highlight dunks, triple doubles and 6 seeds with the guy I’d run through a brick wall for over one superficial season with the guy who ran through the exit door.