Buckle up, folks. The Oklahoma City Thunder rebuild is not done yet. While most of you reading this understood that, at the start of every offseason there is always hope and optimism about what moves could be made to make this team a playoff-caliber one again. Mix that with some encouraging quotes last week during the players’ interview portion and some fans were flying high. Sam Presti did his best during his exit interview to temper expectations.
Presti has done a fantastic job working with the Media, when I talk to my fellow media members covering other teams they are jealous of just how much time the Thunder General Manager spends with us. With over two hours logged on Monday, Preseti sat and answered every question as he does every press conference. Bridging the gap between the front office and the media, and more importantly, the fans. Do not take for granted how important it is for Presti to be as transparent as possible to you, the fan, most fanbases are left in the dark.
Oklahoma City Thunder General Manager Sam Presti said the team is not in a “race against time” during this rebuild
With a ton of hope built up last week over Lu Dort proclaiming the goal next year in the playoffs, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s vague excitement over potential moves he could not dive into with the media, Presti made it clear OKC is not in a “race against time” which should make all OKC Thunder fans happy.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are not going to make a middling move to accelerate this rebuild, and without a race against time that is a clear message from Sam Presti that the ownership brass of the team is not pleading with Presti to return to the playoffs anytime soon. So concerns that low attendance figures, or TV ratings, will make the Thunder itch for a quick fix or even worse, move the team, should be squashed now. They should have never started, but alas, put it to rest now.
In the meantime, it likely means next year will be another “tanking” year, though it will not look the same. I believe the worst is behind us, depending on Lottery luck, and next year goes from a “tanking” season to a “foundational” year. While the team due to their youth, inexperience, and inevitable injuries, will likely miss the playoffs, the goal is to show Sam Presti enough that he feels comfortable going all in during the 2023 offseason.
Why should fans feel confident in that? Why should fans not buy into the national media narrative that Sam Prest is just a sicko that will sell his soul for a first-round pick? Well, because that is crazy, but also because all signs point to 2023.
As long as the Thunder get lottery luck, and draft a good player, with Josh Giddey, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, and the like progressing, the Thunder will use their assets in the 2023 offseason. What makes 2023 so special? Not only will you have a pretty good idea of what this core can be, everything off the court falls into place as well.
The new NBA CBA will be put into place in 2023, allowing teams to understand the financial situation of the league, new contract language, loopholes, and rules coming into play. That gives Sam Presti a new baseline of what to expect around the league.
What else happens in 2023? The Thunder still will have historic draft assets, while operating with as clean of a cap sheet as you possibly can.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will be on the books with his max contract extension, Josh Giddey, Tre Mann, Aleksej Pokusevski, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Aaron Wiggins, Vit Krejci, and Theo Maledon will be the only players under contracts all on rookie deals. For everyone not named Giddey, Mann, and Gilgeous-Alexander, the deals are extremely easy to get off of via team options, or partial guarantees. (Note: Also factor in the selections OKC will make in the 2022 NBA Draft, and 2023 Draft)
In 2023, the Thunder have zero dollars of dead money on their cap sheet, the Derrick Favors ten million dollars rolls off, Kemba Walker will have all of his money, and Kyle Singler collects his last paycheck in 2022 (rejoice!).
Without dead money and hardly any guaranteed money on the books, the Thunder will have everything in line to go trade for a disgruntled star or chase free agents (while that route has not truly worked before in OKC, it is an option) a class that could include LeBron James, James Harden, Khris Middleton, Bradley Beal, Kyrie Irving, Kristaps Porzingis, Fred VanVleet, Myles Turner, Nikola Jokic, and (gulps) Zion Williamson if things go haywire in NOLA (it will not to that extent…I do not think).
While it might feel boring heading into another season without clear playoff aspirations, hold on just a little bit longer, a breakthrough is coming. It simply has to, this team is good young, too good, and has too many avenues to get better.