OKC Thunder: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander speed animation
Speed drawing of Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Todd Pendleton, Oklahoman
All is quiet in Oklahoma City as the NBA trade deadline approaches, and all is expected to stay quiet after the deadline passes at 2 p.m. next Thursday, Feb. 9.
Buyers will hit the gas at the deadline. Sellers will slam on the brakes, careful not to let the ultimate lottery ticket in Victor Wembanyama pass them by.
The Thunder, in all likelihood, will stay in neutral, enjoying the scenery as it rolls through the trade deadline.
The Thunder will tell you the team isn’t ahead of schedule — because there is no schedule, as coach Mark Daigneault said — but no reasonable soul would have predicted the Thunder (24-26) to be just two games under .500 when the calendar flipped to February.
OKC, in Year 3 of the rebuild, has already surpassed its projected win total. It’s already matched its 2021-22 win total. As of Wednesday morning, the Thunder stood 11th in the West — one game out of the play-in, and just two games behind the sixth-place Mavericks.
The Thunder has been even better than its record suggests. OKC has the sixth-best point differential (+1.0) in the West, ahead of the Trail Blazers (+0.4), Mavericks (+0.3), Timberwolves (+0.1), Warriors (+0.1) and Clippers (+0.1).
In the dark days of the rebuild, some fans longed for nothing more than a return to competitive basketball. Those days are here, less than three years removed from the Thunder’s last playoff appearance.
Is now the time for Thunder general manager Sam Presti to hit the accelerator? Don’t count on it.
Let’s get to some Thunder trade deadline questions.
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Will the Thunder be buyers at the NBA trade deadline?
Never say never with Presti, but nothing suggests the Thunder will do anything short-sighted to supplement a play-in run.
In fact, every move Presti has made thus far during the rebuild suggests the opposite.
“We can’t seek shortcuts that are actually setbacks in waiting,” Presti said at his preseason press conference.
Would adding an OG Anunoby from Toronto or John Collins from Atlanta — two rumored trade candidates — make the Thunder better this season? Very likely.
But at what cost? The Thunder would have to relinquish picks, a young player or players and then try to sign a Collins or Anunoby type to an extension. That would eat into the money the Thunder will need to extend the likes of Josh Giddey, Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams after their rookie contracts expire.
Heck, the Thunder might make the playoffs/play-in by doing nothing.
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Will the Thunder be sellers at the NBA trade deadline?
It’s hard to even come up with a list.
Obviously Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Holmgren and Giddey are off the table. As are rookies Jalen Williams and Ousmane Dieng. Lu Dort is unlikely to be moved.
Who’s left that a contender would want? Kenrich Williams, Aaron Wiggins, Isaiah Joe and Mike Muscala are the names that come to mind.
Williams is the heartbeat of the team and has repeatedly said he wants to stay in OKC. Muscala’s situation is similar, although to a lesser degree.
Wiggins is too good to trade for a second-round pick and not good enough to fetch a first.
Joe is interesting. I highly doubt this happens, but if a team offers a real first-round pick for Joe, I bet the Thunder would take it. I’m not saying Joe’s 44% 3-point shooting is unsustainable, but it’s the ultimate sell-high time for a guy who shot 36% from 3-point range in his first two seasons with the Sixers.
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What does Chet Holmgren have to do with this?
A whole lot.
Holmgren, drafted No. 2 overall last summer, is the highest pick in Thunder history. He won’t make his NBA debut until next season as he recovers from a Lisfranc injury in his right foot.
The Thunder isn’t going to make any drastic moves until it knows what it has in Holmgren.
There’s a chance (albeit a small one given SGA’s ascension) that Holmgren eventually overtakes Gilgeous-Alexander as the Thunder’s best player. There’s also a chance (again, a small one) that Holmgren falls short of expectations or struggles to stay healthy.
Regardless, it’s hard to build without a main beam in place.
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Does Sam Presti have a history of trade deadline deals?
Just last season, a day before the deadline, the Thunder acquired KZ Okpala from the Heat in exchange for a 2026 second-round pick.
The trade was neither about Okpala (whom the Thunder waived) or the second-round pick.
By taking on Okpala, the Thunder created a roster spot for the Heat. In return, the Heat loosened the protections on a future first-round pick it owes to the Thunder.
Don’t rule out a similar in-the-weeds trade next week. Instead of making a big swing, the Thunder might lay down a sacrifice bunt — renegotiating a pick protection, being a salary cap third-partner facilitator, acquiring a second-round pick, etc.
In all, Presti has made about a dozen deals at the deadline or in the days leading up to it.
Here are a few notable ones.
Thunder trades: F Jeff Green, C Nenad Krstic, 2012 first-round pick
Celtics trade: C Kendrick Perkins, G Nate Robinson
OKC’s most impactful deadline move.
Thunder trades: G Reggie Jackson, C Kendrick Perkins, F Grant Jerrett, draft rights to C Tibor Pleiss, protected 2017 first-round pick
Jazz trades: C Enes Kanter, F Steve Novak
Pistons trade: F Kyle Singler, G D.J. Augustin, 2017 second-round pick, 2019 second-round pick
Kanter was the centerpiece addition for OKC, which also acquired Singler, Augustin and Novak.
Thunder trades: G Anthony Morrow, G Cameron Payne, C Joffrey Lauvergne
Bulls trade: F Taj Gibson, F Doug McDermott, 2018 second-round pick
McDermott and Payne went onto bigger and better things.
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Will Darius Bazley be traded?
I wish I had a better answer than “I don’t know.”
But I do think Bazley is the most likely Thunder player to be traded.
The 22-year-old forward, drafted 23rd overall in 2019, is in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract. He’s set to enter restricted free agency this summer, and the Thunder doesn’t typically let its players reach restricted free agency — in which a team could present Bazley an offer sheet that the Thunder would then have the right to match.
Could the Thunder fetch a legitimate second-round pick for Bazley, who’s been in and out of the rotation? I’m not so sure, but if so, that’s a deal worth making.
It’s similar to the trade the Thunder made with the Pistons two seasons ago, sending Hamidou Diallo (in the last year of his contract) to Detroit for Svi Mykhailiuk and a 2027 second-round pick.
The Thunder wasn’t going to re-sign Diallo, but it found a way to get a second-round pick rather than losing him for nothing. Maybe the Thunder does the same with Bazley.
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How could the NBA trade deadline affect the West playoff picture?
Is the Jazz, one game ahead of the Thunder, going to be a seller?
What if the Lakers, a game behind the Thunder, make a big move?
Will the Trail Blazers buy or sell?
The Thunder might not do anything at the deadline, but watch out for the ripple effect.
San Antonio and Houston are the only teams out of the playoff race. The rest of the West is very much in flux. Three games separate the fourth-place Clippers from the 11th place Thunder.
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Where is the Thunder projected to pick in the 2023 NBA Draft?
The Thunder only has one first-round pick (its own) in the 2023 NBA Draft. The Thunder can swap picks with the Clippers, but that won’t likely be necessary.
As of Wednesday, OKC is tied for 10th in the reverse standings with Portland and Washington.
The Thunder would have a 10.3% chance of a top-four pick and a 2.2% chance to draft Wembenyama at No. 1.
In 2024, OKC could have as many as four first-round picks.
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