5 key questions facing the OKC Thunder at trade deadline

Danilo Gallinari, head coach Billy Donovan, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dennis Schroder, and Steven Adams of the OKC Thunder huddle vs 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Danilo Gallinari, head coach Billy Donovan, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dennis Schroder, and Steven Adams of the OKC Thunder huddle vs 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Sam Presti, Billy Donovan, OKC Thunder
Sam Presti, Billy Donovan, OKC Thunder (Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images) /

How many picks can Presti comfortably part with?

The next question is considering the treasure trove of draft picks the OKC Thunder has in hand how many should Presti be willing to use to add depth?

While some might think it’s best to keep all the draft picks it’s important to note a few factors. The ghosts of draft prospects who never amount to anything can be found in almost every franchise’s draft closet.

Recent history suggests unless a team lands a generational talent in the draft, prospects don’t necessarily equate to immediate success. Case in point, consider the top picks over the last decade:

At least half could be considered franchise cornerstones. And, while the Cavaliers made multiple runs for the title that had far more to do with LeBron James than it did the three first-round picks the Cavs conveyed in four years, particularly since one was a bust (Bennett) and one was immediately traded to bolster talent and depth (Wiggins).

Each of John Wall, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, and Karl-Anthony Towns were considered generational talents as is Zion but he’s played in a handful of games, so let’s put him to the side for the moment.

So precisely how many NBA Finals appearances and titles have the seven other teams made or collected on this list? The answer to both questions is —  ZERO!  

In fact, let’s dive a little deeper.  In the decade since the Wizards added Wall, they’ve made four postseasons and never got past the second round (and that’s with Bradley Beal on the club the past seven seasons).

In seven seasons with the Pelicans, Anthony Davis led them to the playoffs twice winning a total of five games.

In the case of ‘the Process’ in Philadelphia, it’s fairer to go back further since the 76ers selected Joel Embiid in 2014. In fact, in the past decade, the Sixers have made 14 first-round picks and 23 second-round picks. For their efforts, they’ve made it to two postseasons in the Embiid – Simmons era each time bowing out in the Conference Semi-Finals.

The Timberwolves and Suns have one postseason appearance with one victory between them over this period.

Ultimately, even a “generational” talent is no guarantee of a championship. There are teams like the Spurs, Warriors, Raptors, Celtics, and Heat who’ve continually made postseason appearances remaining competitive virtually every season in spite of rarely having lottery picks.

The point is getting a proven asset who fits the roster and style can often make a bigger impact and Presti should be willing to give up picks to that end.

The one caveat would be retaining the 2021 (and 2022) draft picks because that is the summer high school talents are expected to become available.

Presti also needs to be a bit of a soothsayer since the picks cover multiple years. Figuring out where each of the Clippers, Rockets, and Heat will be in the future is part of the equation. For that reason, it’s important he attaches caveats. For example in years where the Thunder has two or three picks and/or swaps, the Thunder needs to state the lowest pick is the one which will be conveyed. That ensures OKC retains the best draft pick regardless of how they perform.