Grade the Trade: Thunder are title favorites after new blockbuster proposal

Luguentz Dort, Oklahoma City Thunder
Luguentz Dort, Oklahoma City Thunder / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages
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Should the Thunder make this trade?

The Thunder are in a difficult stage in building a true title team. They have the star talent, which is the hardest step, but many teams fumble the ball trying to build the right supporting cast.

To their credit, Oklahoma City has already done a solid job at that task, but trying to improve the talent level around their stars involves not blocking what has made them great.

The Thunder shouldn't go after a hulking center or a non-shooting four because it compromises the five-out style that has made them thrive. They also don't need an on-ball star who takes the ball out of the hands of SGA and J-Dub; Josh Giddey is struggling to find his place because the Thunder recognize their stars need the ball.

That's what makes Mikal Bridges such an intriguing player to target.

His defensive impact when on the Phoenix Suns was elite, and it's very reasonable to expect that the slippage on defense he has experienced in Brooklyn is a combination of playing on a bad team and needing to shoulder a massive offensive load. On the Thunder as the third or fourth option, he can commit himself on that end.

On offense, Bridges is a strong shooter with the ball-handling and scoring chops to attack closeouts and step into a larger role when Gilgeous-Alexander is off the court. He may not love the prospect of going from the top option to the third, but if he buys in he could unlock a champion in OKC.

There are two hesitations to making this deal for the Thunder.

The first is whether or not Bridges is a significant enough improvement over what Lu Dort is giving them. Dort is one of the strongest wing defenders in the league, as he's able to guard virtually any position from guards down to forwards.

He shot 39.4 percent from 3-point range this season and his free-throw shooting suggests that improvement is at least somewhat real. Bridges is a much better on-ball player, but the Thunder don't need to utilize that often, and Dort brings a defensive edge and intensity that are extremely helpful to a young team.

The other hesitation is whether there is a better swing to make. Bridges is a seamless fit, but should the Thunder have their gaze focused even higher? Can they go after another superstar to bring their team to dynastic levels, be that an older star like Kevin Durant or a younger one like Giannis Antetokounmpo?

There is something to be said for locking into their core and building around them, and Bridges is one of the best options to do so. The Thunder have the draft capital to make such a move.

Every little bit helps when you are taking a contender and making them even better, so perhaps even the marginal upgrade over Dort is worth it.

This is an intriguing option for the Thunder to consider on the trade market this summer.

Grade: B+

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