OKC Thunder don’t need to tank to optimize draft picks return

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
The first-round draft board is seen during the 2019 NBA Draft (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

To tank, or not to tank, that is the question.

Of the 15 future draft picks, seven of them are owned by the OKC Thunder. This means the team has as much control over where the picks land as you can within a lottery system.

So shouldn’t they lose as many games as possible to ensure that they obtain a high selection?

Well, with the new odds system in place, you no longer have to bottom out for a shot at the big fish in a certain NBA Draft. Just take a look at last year’s lottery. The first year with the new system in place saw the 33-49 Pelicans net Zion Williamson.

Related Story. Revised Lottery Odds work as planned. light

Most importantly, of those seven picks, only two have protections. The teams 2020 first-round pick is Top-20 protected, or it gets shipped off to the city of brotherly love. Their 2022 pick conveys to the Atlanta Hawks it if falls outside of the top-10 that year.

If we ever see Sam Presti enter the tank, it will be during that 2022 season. Outside of wanting to protect your pick, there is no longer a huge incentive to outright bottom out.

If you look at Sam Presti’s draft history, while he does have some misses, it is still better than most.

The biggest reason to end tanking outside of the new lottery system is due to the NBA Draft just being an absolute crapshoot. During Presti’s remarkable run of drafting three future MVP’s, he never held the first overall pick.

Russell Westbrook at the time was largely viewed as a reach by Presti and the organization. That pick is attributed to the team’s scouting department, but also how random the draft process is.

Even look at Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, while he was not selected by Presti, he fell down the draft boards until the Hornets scooped him up at pick 11 in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Knowing what we know now, SGA at least goes within the top five of that class talent-wise.

While eventually trading off Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder and possibly Steven Adams will inevitably see the team take a step back in wins, outright trying to be bad is no longer necessary in today’s NBA.

However, making their selections is not the lone option.