Insider reveals Thunder passed on 5x All-Star, 4x NBA Champion for Isaiah Hartenstein

NBA Insider Ramona Shelburne recently revealed that the OKC Thunder "ended up prioritizing" Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency over a particular perennial All-Star and NBA Champion.
New York Knicks v Golden State Warriors
New York Knicks v Golden State Warriors / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

This summer, the OKC Thunder landed their long-rumored, top-billed free agent target Isaiah Hartenstein on day two of the league-wide festivities, inking him to a three-year, $87 million deal.

With this move, Sam Presti and company have managed to strengthen their previously depleted frontcourt rotation and big man collection, and added a strong, sturdy 7-foot-1, 249-pound presence to now pair next to their already existing 7-foot-1 center, Chet Holmgren, down low.

Interestingly enough, however, while the consensus opinion and overall feel for Oklahoma City's decision-making thus far into the offseason is undeniably positive, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, the front office had a level of interest in focusing their attention on one of this summer's biggest free agents, Klay Thompson.

Thunder passed on Klay Thompson in pursuit of Isaiah Hartenstein

Per the NBA Insider, the Thunder "were interested in Thompson" after he had opted to split from the Golden State Warriors, though, ultimately, "ended up prioritizing big man Isaiah Hartenstein with their cap space."

What makes this report even more fascinating is the fact that before he reached an agreement to sign with the Mavericks on a three-year, $50 million deal, Shelburne noted in her piece that the wing "was intrigued by the young Oklahoma City Thunder," suggesting that, in theory, there was a chance they could have beaten out Dallas in a hypothetical pursuit, especially considering they had the fifth-highest spending power in the entire association ($35.3 million) before the Hartenstein deal.

Though a report like this may be fun to see, as it serves as an encouraging sign that players of all statuses across the association see the Thunder as a coveted destination, it also invites the possibility of negative narratives, particularly when it comes to their decision to pursue Hartenstein over Thompson.

While some may see Presti's choice to shell out $37 million more in total, and roughly $13 million more annually, on an arguable role player rather than add a five-time All-Star and four-time NBA Champion as questionable, one mustn't forget the state of the team outside of these two players.

Already in tow, Oklahoma City has a legitimate superstar in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, along with two budding young stars, Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren, leading the way.

Around them are impressive and high-upside complementary role players, a group that is now headlined by the likes of one of the game's best 3-and-D wings, Alex Caruso, following their trade with the Chicago Bulls late last month.

Caruso is by no means the player Thompson has proven himself to be, but, with his addition, the Thunder already managed to address their need to bring on more competent outside shooting threats who can also produce on the less glamorous side of the ball.

Next up on their to-do list was for them to finally address their arsenal up front that lacked size and rebounding skills (ranked 27 in boards per game last year).

Without question, Hartenstein (pulled down 16.6 boards per 100 possessions last season) addresses these areas of need down low, and, because of this, regardless of how unsexy it may sound on the surface, there should be no question about it that Presti and co. made the right decision to pass on Thompson in pursuit of the 26-year-old big in free agency.