Why trade partners may want more than Thunder draft picks

Why trade partners may want more than Thunder draft picks

OKC is flush with draft assets, but trade partners will likely desire the certainty of a current Thunder player over the unknown of a future pick.

Jon Hamm

By Jon Hamm

| Feb 7, 2024, 1:00pm CST

Jon Hamm

By Jon Hamm

Feb 7, 2024, 1:00pm CST

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With potentially 15 future first-round picks — and possibly 22 future second-rounders — the Thunder is loaded with draft assets.

Some people may not know the Thunder’s record (35-16 after last night’s loss in Utah) or how to pronounce the head coach’s name (DAYG-nault, for the record) but they know OKC owns a bunch of picks. Some national personalities almost insinuate that the Thunder is hanging onto them out of spite.

The NBA trade deadline is 2 p.m. Central Standard Time on Thursday and people are running a high-grade trade fever. Theoretical trades are bandied about, often some lopsided offer along with some number of future draft picks to act as the Flexseal tape to patch up the leaky offer.

Trading only draft picks to bolster the roster sounds good in theory. But the Thunder also has something else other teams would like to have: several young players on excellent contracts. 

And since not every team is as skilled as OKC at identifying talent, why not raid the team that does a pretty good job of it?

Think about this from the viewpoint of another team. Sure, draft picks are valuable; the currency of the league. The latest collective bargaining agreement will impose severe roster-building restrictions on high-spending teams, which will cause teams to covet picks as a way to add cost-effective talent.

But some teams may prefer to acquire players the Thunder have already drafted. And that’s where trade talks could hit an immediate hangup.

Another team could reason that if we’re trading you a good player for draft picks and salary filler, then someone already on the team will have their role reduced. So why not just send us that player instead? And throw in a pick or two as well.

Whoever your favorite Thunder trade target is, ponder the ramifications if it requires OKC to part with a piece of the core. For example, it’s unlikely the Thunder would get to pair Mikal Bridges with Jalen Williams. The Nets would likely want, and the market would allow them to command, JDub as part of the deal.

Have your eyes on Buddy Hield or Bogdan Bogdanovic? Would you still like your trade if it meant giving up Isaiah Joe? Maybe a well-reasoned argument can be made for it, but a lot of people are building fantasy trades with end-of-bench players and draft picks. That calculus changes if such a trade means surrendering part of a proven rotation.

Some are ready to willingly offer Josh Giddey as that prospect in a trade package. Giddey has become polarizing this season. Setting aside an off-court incident that has been widely covered, he admitted difficulty in adjusting to a role that requires him to play a style that differs from his first two seasons. Even though the police investigation is closed, the NBA’s inquiry remains open.

Simply put: the Thunder and any potential Giddey suitors likely need more clarity before making any final decisions. For now, he’s probably not the prospect other teams are seeking.

That doesn’t mean the Thunder are sidelined through the trade deadline, nor is it limited only to blockbuster deals. But if teams insist on carving out a piece of OKC’s promising young core, expect the Thunder to hold firm, and for good reason.

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