3 Players the OKC Thunder can afford to trade: 3 they must protect ahead of NBA Trade Deadline

The NBA Trade Deadline will be a hot topic for OKC Thunder fans, and there are three players the Thunder can afford to trade and three they must keep.

Dec 2, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski (17) warms up
Dec 2, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski (17) warms up / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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Aleksej Pokusevski, F/C, 7 Games Played, 5 million dollars

The Oklahoma City Thunder drafted Aleksej Pokusevski with the 16th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

When diehard Thunder fans lambast National Reports about the organization never letting things leak, it is fun to look back on how much the team telegraphed their love for Pokusevski, even getting baited into trading up for the Serbian mystery man by the Mavericks.

While it is easy to crucify the pick now, especially with what the prospects selected around Pokusevski became, the dirty little secret is, it did not matter if Pokusevski hit or not.

The Thunder were trying to lose, starting the long process that eventually netted them back-to-back top ten picks, including the 2nd overall pick in Chet Holmgren, who now looks like a rookie All-Star.

It was always a low-risk, high-reward proposition. The Thunder were always going to lose a ton of games during that three-season span, and they were always going to have the assets to make up for a horrific miss. In the meantime, there was a (small) chance he became a modern NBA Unicorn!

The season Aleksej Pokusevski is on this list is not because he has any NBA Trade Value, but the Thunder have made it clear they rarely let players hit restricted Free Agency. Given that Pokusevski is nailed to the bench ahead of his RFA decision, it seems like the verdict is out.

So, in all likelihood, Aleksej Pokusevski will go the way of Darius Bazley and get thrown into a random trade on deadline day in a move that will give fans a jump scare only to realize it is of no consequence.