The Oklahoma City Thunder lost two stars but received a plethora of assets in return. Now, Sam Presti has the chance to fix the mistakes of the past. With a loaded amount of first-round picks, the Oklahoma City Thunder future can be a reload or rebuild.
Rebuild or Reload: Oklahoma City Thunder
The sight of Damian Lillard‘s clutch go-ahead three-pointer over Paul George is still fresh in the minds of fans. Many assumed Lillard “waving goodbye” in the aftermath echoed his Portland Trail Blazers sending the Oklahoma City Thunder home from the postseason. No one knew that in essence, Lillard was waving goodbye to an era of Thunder basketball.
In the offseason, Oklahoma City traded away the disgruntled Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers. In an ensuing move, Russell Westbrook was shipped to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Chris Paul. The silver lining was that both moves brought a number of assets in return. Those assets being first-round draft picks, to be accurate.
It is an end of an era in Oklahoma City with Westbrook finally playing elsewhere. Now Sam Presti has the means to correct past mistakes for a brighter future for the franchise. With a record number of draft picks, there are two paths for him to undertake.
Option One: Rebuild and Fix the Past
Oklahoma City and Sam Presti have a glowing track record via picks in the NBA Draft. Rarely do you see a franchise go back-to-back-to-back with stellar draft selections. From 2007 to 2009, the Thunder drafted three future NBA MVPs. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden were primed to be a future dynasty.
Yet the franchise’s unwillingness to veer into luxury tax territory as a means of staying competitive ultimately cost the Thunder’s chance at a possible title. Who knows what could have been with Durant, Westbrook, and Harden on the same team today. Instead, all three are gone and the Oklahoma City Thunder future is back to square one.
Now could be the chance for the front office to fix their past mistakes. A small market like Oklahoma City is tough to sell for potential big-name free agents. The Thunder have had success getting young talent in the draft, so their plethora of assets is good news. Yet now, unlike before, the Thunder should be ready to spend in order to keep their young talent in Oklahoma City. A rebuild might not be pleasurable for fans now, but it gives the front office the chance to do the right thing for the future.
Option Two: Reload for the Future
Even with a record number of draft picks, Sam Presti and company does not necessarily need to use all of them. We are undoubtedly in the era of NBA player movement, and this summer has shown anything is possible. A disgruntled superstar, no matter how huge the contract, can force his way to a new team.
Why should the Thunder wait for future free agents, when they have the assets to trade for them sooner? Perhaps Oklahoma City should closely monitor the likes of Devin Booker or a Karl-Anthony Towns. No matter the amount of money they’re being paid, if the team is not competitive, we’ve seen stars force their way out of undesirable situations.
This could be the chance for Oklahoma City to trade for stars sooner, rather than trying to sell them via pitch later. The Thunder as a small market team, with little playoff success, would be at a disadvantage in the latter situation. They don’t need to go the old-route of accumulating young talent with picks, hoping they develop. They could try and flip assets for a star or two, with the hopes of reloading rather than rebuilding.
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