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It’s time to open up my Twitter mailbag and answer some of my favorite questions from Thunder fans over the past week!
Would you trade Shai for a top 3 pick?
In this year’s draft, absolutely not. As much as I like Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith, Jr., I’m not sure either ever reaches a level SGA is still climbing towards. In last year’s draft, let me think about it. Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley are both headed towards stardom. It’s debatable which of the three will end up being the best player. All things being equal, I’d rather just keep SGA because of his already known floor, his easy to see ceiling and his personality, character and culture fit. But Cunningham and Mobley are on rookie contracts for an extra few years, which means more guaranteed time in Oklahoma City plus lots of extra cap space to add a star player or two. That’s tempting. In next year’s draft? Well, Victor Wembanyama might be the most hyped high school player since LeBron James. Ask me in a year to see if he goes the way of LeBron… or the way of Emoni Bates.
Last year OKC had what, 80% chance of a top 5? I’m not holding my breath. Pick 7 and 13 let’s GO.
Hate to be Debbie DT Downer, but there’s a miniscule chance OKC could actually end up with picks 8 and 14. That said, this growing sentiment of hoping for the best but expecting the worst so as to not be disappointed may be a smart strategy. If OKC ends up with a top 4 pick, woohoo nice surprise! And if the ping pong balls are jerks again, well hey, even ending up with Jalen Duren and Malaki Branham is kinda sorta exciting, right? Right?? Ugh, I just can’t do it. I need Shaedon Sharpe in OKC at worst.
What are we going to do if we somehow get picks 1 and 2?
Party like it’s 2099? The most obvious answer is drafting the top two players on your board, which I assume are Smith and Holmgren. That immediately fills the two biggest holes in the Thunder lineup. SGA-Dort-Giddey-JSJ-Holmgren is an all 23 and under lineup with a nice mix of scoring, shooting, playmaking, defense and upside. Or you can swap out Jabari for Paolo Banchero, and it’s still a unit that’s potentially dangerous for 2024 and beyond.
Now if you wanna get nuts, OKC could take Chet or Jabari at #1 and trade the #2 pick for a small fortune to the teams at #4 or #5 and draft Shaedon Sharpe. They’d get maybe the two biggest upside swings and possible superstars in the draft and collect more future first round picks in the process.
Lu Dort, Darius Bazley, a future first and this year’s first for Donovan Mitchell? Enough? Or Baze and 3 future firsts for Rudy Gobert? Enough?
Whispers of festering friction in Utah has led to the possibility of two young-ish stars being broken up, so of course OKC–with its plethora of picks–has become a popular hypothetical landing spot. And it does make some sense. SGA-Mitchell-Giddey has the makings of a young, fun playoff team. OKC fans would love Spida on and off the court. SGA-Giddey-Gobert has some shooting/spacing issues, but you can work with a foundation that begins with an elite scorer, an elite playmaker and an elite defender. If the Jazz decide to sell on either or both of them, the Thunder have the assets to go star shopping. But it’s not going to happen. Sam Presti has been adamant the team won’t take shortcuts. And while Sammy could change his mind depending on the player and deal, I don’t think buying high on Mitchell and his max contract nor the soon-to-be-30-next-month Gobert are the guys to make Presti call a rebuild audible.
Can you sell me on Jaden Ivey?
Do you miss the days of an electric Russell Westbrook sprinting full court for a furious, high-flying fast break dunk on the Spurs’ heads while Loud City loses their collective mind? Now what if OKC could draft an Equate brand young Russ, but add a decent 3-point jumper? Imagine opposing defenses worrying about SGA’s silky, unstoppable drives to the rim, Josh Giddey’s omniscient playmaking, Dort’s ever-improving offense, Tre Mann’s NASA level space creation and Ivey’s Ja-esque bounce. Sure, that’s a lot of guards. But the last time OKC was in the playoffs, their three guard lineup was the best trio in the league. Five good to great guards isn’t a burden. It’s an advantage.
The short version: There are five star-tier prospects in this draft and if OKC drafts at 4 or 5, they need to pick Ivey because he’s one of them. Best talent available supersedes need at this stage of the Thunder rebuild.