Future outlook: How OKC Thunder build from here

Nick Collison, Sam Presti, OKC Thunder - trade deadline overview (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nick Collison, Sam Presti, OKC Thunder - trade deadline overview (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /
1 of 9
OKC Thunder
James Harden of the Houston Rockets against Russell Westbrook of the OKC Thunder (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

With the OKC Thunder blowing up their current roster and being armed with a historic amount of draft picks as a result of that, how should they go about building the team from here?

In a sudden turn of events, the OKC Thunder as a team has performed a complete 180 in the past week. After inking deals with Free Agents Mike Muscala and Alec Burks (who later signed with the Warriors) as well as resigning Nerlens Noel, it seemed like OKC was headed towards another year of contention in the Western Conference.

Everything changed when Kawhi Leonard started relentlessly recruiting Paul George to join him in LA and play for the Clippers. George went to Sam Presti and requested a trade to join the two time Finals MVP in LA and OKC was given an offer they simply could not refuse.

Given the fact that OKC was essentially sending George and Leonard to LA because of the fact Leonard didn’t want to go without a second star, Sam Presti leveraged an incredible return. OKC received a historical haul of draft picks, including five, first round picks as well as two pick swaps with the Clippers in 2023 and 2025. In addition, All-Rookie second team guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and forward Danilo Gallinari.

Thankfully, George let the team know he wanted out so OKC could get valuable assets that set the Thunder up very well for the future. In my opinion, even if George didn’t want out, I would have still taken that trade with the Clippers.

This trade had Thunder fans and the National media assuming OKC was going into rebuilding mode for the first time in the franchise’s history. Only a few days later those suspicions were confirmed when OKC dealt away forward Jerami Grant to the division rival Denver Nuggets for a top-10 protected 2020 first round pick.

As a result of these deals, Oklahoma City for the first time was “receptive on trade talks involving Russell Westbrook” per Shams Charania.

It looked for a few days that the Miami Heat were the front runners, as they were the main team that had been mentioned among NBA insiders throughout the week. However, on Thursday night a monumental Woj bomb dropped that would change the direction of the franchise for the next decade.

The Thunder traded Russell Westbrook to Houston to reunite with his childhood friend James Harden in the Rockets backcourt. In return, Houston sent over Chris Paul, two protected 1-4 picks in 2024 and 2026, as well as two additional protected pick swaps in 2021 and 2025

OKC worked alongside Westbrook and his agent Thad Foucher to send Westbrook to his preferred destination, the Houston Rockets, so he could relive his early OKC days with James Harden once more, according to Woj.

The Thunder swapped massive contracts in Westbrook and Paul and gained two picks and two swaps as a result.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Rockets were actually trying to relocate Chris Paul to a third team in the original deal but could not get it done, leaving that task up to Sam Presti and the rest of OKC’s front office.