As first reported by Shams Charania (The Athletic), the Thunder will send Kelly Oubre, Jr. to the Warriors for Golden State’s protected 2021 first round pick. Contradicting what appears to be incorrect wording by Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN, the protections have been confirmed by Anthony Slater, Charania’s colleague at The Athletic, as 1 through 20. If the Warriors finish outside of the top-10 in the regular season standings, the pick will instead convey as two second-rounders.
Aside from that minimal return, the Thunder will receive another large trade exception themselves ($14.4 million), which they’ll seek to use by taking back dead or bad money in exchange for assets from other teams needing to clear salary.
It’s a high risk but reasonable gamble for Golden State, who are now on the hook for north of $100 million in luxury tax payments in the upcoming season by virtue of taking Oubre directly into a trade exception rather than sending salary back to Oklahoma City. In the wake of the news that Klay Thompson has been lost for the upcoming season, this represents their efforts to return to contention, but it’s unlikely they bounce back to the top of the league standings. And if they truly disappoint, they can move off of salary to reduce their tax payment while still receiving the consolation of a valuable draft pick.
For the Thunder, the deal is an underwhelming development considering Oubre’s age and the expected demand from playoff hopefuls like the Warriors. One impetus for completing a trade with so lackluster a return could be the opportunity cost of waiting–as OKC races to complete and orchestrate other moves in an abbreviated off-season within tight cap restrictions and negotiation windows, suitors for players like Oubre could drop out as other signings and trades occur. Or, remaining hung up on Oubre options could have impeded the progress of other moves OKC wanted to make. Regardless, the franchise could have waited until as long as the trade deadline to extract more value for a young, scoring wing.
Another possible impetus? The more established players on the Thunder roster come opening night, the more victories could pile up and diminish the team’s draft lottery odds in 2021. Moving on from a player not prized as a building block for the future also allows more playing time for some of the many other fresh faces that VP & GM Sam Presti has begun to acquire. The front office will be in a constant state of evaluation for these rebuilding years, determining whether players on the roster are keepers or should be moved to make room for other prospects in the pipeline. If a 26-year-old like Oubre–good, but not close to a star player–became a hot potato for the Thunder due to that downside, you can expect the other veterans on the roster to be shopped very aggressively before the season’s December 22 start date.