NBA Draft decisions strengthen notion Thunder are eying top-billed free agent big

The OKC Thunder are subtly showing their free agency intentions following 2024 NBA Draft decisions.
Oklahoma City Thunder v New York Knicks
Oklahoma City Thunder v New York Knicks / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages

Heading into the 2024 NBA Draft, many believed that the OKC Thunder would look to address their frontcourt needs by using one of their several selections on a young big.

Interestingly enough, however, after two days of the festivities and being on the clock on three separate occasions, we find Oklahoma City still in need of up-front bolstering, as they opted to snatch up guard Nikola Topic with their 12 overall selection, and then two versatile wings in Dillon Jones and Ajay Mitchell at 26 and 38, respectively, thereafter.

Though to some, this turn of events may have come as a bit of a shock, for Mark Daigneault's club was quite limited in the rebounding department (ranked 27 in boards per game) this past season and was manhandled by the stronger and vertically superior Dallas Mavericks in round two of the playoffs, in actuality, their decision to pass on adding bigs in the draft may be a strong indicator of what their free agency plans may be.

Thunder draft decisions may give insight into free agency plans

This summer, there are slated to be a bevy of big men available for the taking, be it on the trade or free agency market.

One player, in particular, who's heading toward unrestricted free agency is New York Knicks center, Isaiah Hartenstein, who, following his career regular season and breakout playoff performance, is drawing significant interest from rival clubs.

The Thunder, per reports, are one of said teams that will be vying for his services, with HoopsHype's Michael Scotto recently revealing that "There’s a lot of intrigue" in the team adding his talents to the rotation for next season.

As noted, the 7-footer is coming off a career campaign with the Knickerbockers in 2023-24, as he played in 75 games and posted impressive averages of 7.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 blocks per night.

He would only go on to up his productivity under the bright lights of the postseason, where he dropped 8.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and just shy of a block on 59.2 percent shooting from the floor and 50.0 percent shooting from distance, which, in turn, has people such as Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports suggesting he now could be in the running for "at least $80 million, and perhaps upward of $100 million" in free agency.

Though perhaps a steep price for some, the Thunder are heading into this summer's festivities with roughly $35 million in cap space to work with, ranking them in the top five in spending power.

With their decision to not snatch up a big man during the 2024 NBA Draft, coupled with Fischer's claim that "OKC would look at doing short-term deals, most likely in free agency," the sentiment that this front office is looking to scoop up Hartenstein, or another one of this year's top-billed free agent centers, has only been strengthened.