Why 'dream' trade target for Thunder could be an absolute nightmare if acquired

Jan 26, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault looks on against the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 26, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault looks on against the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

With roughly $35 million in salary space, a treasure chest of draft capital at their ready, and legitimate championship aspirations there may be no team more ready to make a major offseason splash than the OKC Thunder.

After embarking on their first deep playoff run in nearly a decade this past campaign, Mark Daigneault's club seems to be knocking on the door of legitimate contention status. Frankly, when taking into account the fact that they boast an average age of 25, there's even a strong argument to be made that, with the proper adjustments, Oklahoma City could be the league's next great dynasty.

This summer, Sam Presti and company have an opportunity to shore up some of this team's lacking, albeit prevalent rotational weaknesses to make them virtually indestructible (barring injuries, of course) and, in the eyes of Bleacher Report's Greg Swartz, a "dream" scenario for the Thunder could come in the form of a trade for New Orleans Pelicans power forward, Zion Williamson.

Zion Williamson tabbed as 'dream' trade target for OKC Thunder

If we learned anything from their latest postseason excursion, it's that the Thunder seriously need to add more size and physicality to their frontcourt, as they were absolutely manhandled by the bigger and stronger rotation that the Dallas Mavericks rolled out against them.

Though to some, this would suggest that OKC may want to bolster their center position with bigger bodies, considering coach Mark Daigneault's desires to continue rolling rookie phenom Chet Holmgren out as the starting pivot, the most logical and likely course of action will be for the front office to pursue a physically dominant four and, in turn, slide Jalen Williams up to the three.

In many ways, Williamson fits the mold of such a player.

Despite measuring in at just 6-foot-6, the 23-year-old has proven to be an absolute bull on the hardwood at power forward, and his career averages of 24.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists on 59.2 percent shooting from the floor and two All-Star nods only add to the allure that is Zion.

Of course, what must always be taken into account when it relates to the polarizing big is his health concerns, regarding both his weight and injury history.

Registering in at 284 pounds, it goes without saying that, despite the obscene muscle definition that he sports, Williamson's weight is seemingly much too grandiose for someone of his height, while the pressure said weight likely puts on his ligaments when pulling off his signature, otherwordly athletic maneuvers is enough to make anyone nervous when he's found on the floor -- emphasis on the "when."

Throughout his five-year career, the former number one pick has seen 60 or more games played just once, and even missed the entirety of the 2021-22 campaign due to a foot ailment.

This past season proved to be his most durable since entering the league back in 2019, as he logged 70 games of action and, in turn, posted tremendous averages of 22.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.1 steals, and just shy of a block on 57.0 percent shooting from the field.

Unfortunately, however, even though he helped guide the Pelicans to a 49-33 record and to their second playoff appearance in three years, Williamson would go on to sustain an ill-timed calf injury during the Play-In Tournament that, as both Thunder and New Orleans fans are well aware, held him out for the entirety of their first-round matchup against OKC.

If health weren't a constant concern when it comes to the likes of Zion, siding with Swartz on the idea that he'd be an ideal power forward to have paired next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams, and Chet Holmgren in the starting lineup would be quite easy, as his all-around game and brute-force type of play could prove to be a great compliment to the team.

Sadly, injuries are by and large the main talking point when discussing Williamson and is the reason why this so-called "dream" of a trade target could prove to be more of a nightmare if ever acquired.

Is the upside of him joining this team astonishingly high? Absolutely.

That said, if there's one thing to be taken away from Zion Williamson's career, it's that the risks of his employment have been far more on display than the rewards.