The OKC Thunder could make a big splash, but at what cost?
While on paper, before the “core four” play a single game together, it is easy to dream about all of them reaching their sky-high ceilings and the OKC Thunder rattling off a dominant run with a young core that likes of which we have rarely seen in small market NBA land.
Ultimately, though, that typically does not happen. In the NBA, you can always expect the unexpected to happen. That is why Julie Chen-Moonves should take over as league commissioner.
The OKC Thunder could see the young core simply not pan out; as we all know, development is not linear, and sometimes players do not progress at the clip we think they can. You must also factor in what the NBA has set up for their players. At any given time, players can become disgruntled and ask out. Look at Giannis Antetokounmpo; even after grabbing his first ring with the Bucks this summer, out of nowhere, he has “soft launched” a trade request.
Even if the Thunder survive the player disgruntlement phase, eventually, this team could need an upgrade or be presented with an enticing option like Antetokounmpo that would be tough to turn down. Picks alone would not be enough to sway the scales for a superstar.
Swapping Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for another superstar also does not do much, so he retains that “untouchable unless he himself demands out” status. However, the trio of youngsters would have to be at least discussed in potential star trade talks.
Of that group, Josh Giddey would be at the forefront of guys to part with. It draws the interest of other teams and allows the Thunder to retain more position versatility to reshape the roster with this new-found star. For Giddey, he would presumably get to run the show for said new squad, and as we saw at the FIBA World Cup tournament as a 20-year-old, that is something you would love to bank on as an organization.
Ultimately, I think Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the only true “untouchable” player because you can at least talk about trade packages regarding every other player. However, what is the most likely outcome of this rebuild? The Oklahoma City Thunder keep this core four together for as long as the individuals want to be here and work around the edges to maximize this roster. I do not think they will go whale hunting any time soon, or ever, with how good this team can be.