OKC Thunder: Should they protect their first round pick?

OKC Thunder : General Manager Sam Presti speaks to media at preseason media availability (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
OKC Thunder : General Manager Sam Presti speaks to media at preseason media availability (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

With the OKC Thunder being a lot better than expected this season, the question is do they try and protect their first-round pick for the upcoming draft?

Two years ago when the OKC Thunder traded their first-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, they made sure they had top 20 protection on it. The 76ers would have been happy as they got Ersan Ilyasova and were a lock to claim the pick with the team the Thunder had.

Fast forward to this summer and the OKC Thunder lost two of their stars in Russell Westbrook and Paul George. They also traded Jerami Grant, the player in the 76ers trade, to the Denver Nuggets for a first-round pick in this draft as well.

Not many people would have thought the Thunder would be in danger of conveying the pick this draft. It would mean they would have to be in the top ten teams of the league.

Well, the OKC Thunder are not in the top ten at the moment, they are currently sitting 13th in the league. This means that they can only rise to fifth in the Western conference before they are in danger of conveying this pick to the 76ers. If the pick does not convey then the 76ers get a second-round pick in the 2022 and 2023 drafts.

Now, why is it that they can only finish fifth or lower to keep the pick? It is hard to see any of the top six teams in the Eastern conference falling below the Thunder The team with the sixth-best record is the Indiana Pacers and they are about to get Victor Oladipo back.

It would also appear that two teams below the OKC Thunder have little to no chance of catching them. The Brooklyn Nets are a team without a focus, outside of Kyrie Irving and he appears to be doing more harm than good to any team he is on. They are also seven games behind the Thunder.

The Orlando Magic are four games behind the Thunder and have not shown that they are going to rise up the standings.

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In the West, the Thunder can move up past the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks. Anything past that and the Thunder lose their first-round pick. I am not sure they are going to be able to go above the LA Clippers and Utah Jazz in the standings, given the gap between them, but who knows in this year’s NBA, especially with the chemistry of this team.

So, for those watching the OKC Thunder picks, they will get the Denver Nuggets first-round pick which is likely to be a late first-round pick. Then, the OKC Thunder are likely to keep their own pick, unless they finish fourth or better in the West. If they do this then losing this pick will be a good payoff for home court advantage in round one.

Either way, the OKC Thunder are in a tremendous position, relevant in the season where they were meant to be rebuilding and probably having two first-round draft picks As a side note, they will also keep their second-round pick if it is 31-55.

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The even better thing is that the OKC Thunder have not even started on the picks given to them by the LA Clippers. What a time to be an OKC Thunder fan. The future is extremely bright.