How close were the OKC Thunder from pulling the trigger on a big man?

Dereck Lively II (R) poses with NBA commissioner Adam Silver (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Dereck Lively II (R) poses with NBA commissioner Adam Silver (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The OKC Thunder are building something special in Bricktown. Their young core seems to be one of the best in the league, led by superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Sam Presti still owns a pile of first-round picks and has the assets to make any necessary improvements to this Thunder team that might pop up.

During the 2023 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder elected to trade into the top ten with the Dallas Mavericks, swapping the 12th overall pick (Dereck Lively II) for the 10th overall pick (Cason Wallace) and Davis Bertans.

There were plenty of discussions leading into the NBA Draft about who the OKC Thunder would select. Dereck Lively II was thrown around as an option, especially from the portion of the fanbase that believes the Thunder need a more “traditional big man.”

The OKC Thunder ended up trading Dereck Lively II on Draft night, but the Duke big man had the Thunder on a short list of teams that he thought would grab him.

Dereck Lively II recently went on the “Brotherhood Podcast,” which is produced by the Duke Blue Devils basketball team. Lively II chatted with Mark Mitchell about his time at Duke and the lead-up to his rookie season.

The Duke Big Man claims he wanted to go to the Dallas Mavericks, but he thought the Orlando Magic, New Orleans Pelicans, and Oklahoma City Thunder were teams that were interested in him.

While the OKC Thunder technically selected him, that is just an NBA paperwork problem, as he was swiftly swapped to Dallas before the Thunder were ever on the clock back in June. Lively II will battle for minutes for the Mavericks this season in their big-man rotation.

Dereck Lively II’s revelation could pique the interest of OKC Thunder fans who want the team to slide Chet Holmgren up to the power-forward spot. However, I would caution against that thought process for at least another year. The Thunder absolutely believe Holmgren is a center with their style of play.

The Oklahoma City Thunder ultimately elected to trade Dereck Lively II for Cason Wallace, leaning into their position-less nature with a Kentucky 3-and-D guard with playmaking mixed in.

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