The OKC Thunder swung a mid-NBA-Finals deal with the Denver Nuggets for the second straight year. Only this time, the Nuggets are actually competing in the NBA Finals. That did not stop them from pulling the trigger on a trade that increased the value of Sam Presti’s future asset war chest.
The Oklahoma City Thunder traded the least favorable of their four 2024 First Round Picks, the 37th overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, and a 2024 second-round pick, to the Denver Nuggets for a protected 2029 first-round pick. While the protections have yet to be discovered at this time, this deal only makes sense if it is a top-ten or less-protected pick. For reference, last year’s deal between these two featured a 2027 top-five protected pick for the 30th selection in the 2022 draft (Peyton Watson).
The OKC Thunder have swung a trade with the Denver Nuggets that increases the value of their future assets.
From the time the trade was announced by ESPN Insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the OKC Thunder fanbase has seen some mixed reviews, from unabashed praise of Presti to head-scratching confusion and fear that this move at all limits them in two weeks at the 2023 NBA Draft.
The Oklahoma City Thunder own four (via the Rockets, Jazz, Clippers, and Thunder) first-round picks in the 2024 NBA Draft Class, now down to three as they owe the least favorable selection to the Denver Nuggets. They did not have enough roster spots to take in four first-rounders next year; on top of that, the 2024 Draft class projects to be the weakest in a very long time.
First-round picks become extremely valuable with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Cost-controlled talent will be necessary as you begin to pay the core pieces of your roster. The OKC Thunder are not at that stage yet, but will soon need to pay them all. While Denver Nuggets need to capitalize on cheap talent right now.
On top of the CBA ramifications, the OKC Thunder increased the value of their pile of picks. While giving away the worst pick in the worst draft class, Oklahoma City acquires a pick pushed out to out to the 2029 class, where no one knows the value of the players or how good the Nuggets will still be. This increases the value of the selection while in trade talks. It is like a mystery box that you can sell other General Managers on. On top of that, their pile now includes multiple first-round picks from 2024-2029.
Extending this asset window, even while sacrificing a pick in a bad draft class, is vital for Oklahoma City, who will need to add picks via trade or the draft as this core grows and changes and blemishes of this group are revealed. It takes time to win a Championship, and the OKC Thunder are in the infancy stage.
As for the second-round picks given up (pick 37 this year and a second-rounder next year), think of those as the equipment of a Splenda packet in a cup of coffee. Do you really notice if your cup has one or two? They are also easily accessible, even this season; if value falls to the low 30s, Presti can buy right back into that range on Draft night.
While many are concerned this dampens the chances of Sam Presti climbing up the NBA Draft board from pick 12 this year, I would refer you to this time last year. Presti “gave away” pick 30 in the 2022 draft a week before hand, and still traded for pick 11 on Draft night.
Everything is on the table for Oklahoma City, this trade is about preparing the organization for an even brighter future.