OKC Thunder Draft Picks: Trade Targets For The Thunder In The Future

OKC Thunder Draft Picks: Trade Targets For The Thunder In The Future

London Hayes, Reporter

It’s no secret that the Oklahoma City Thunder easily have the most draft capital in the NBA, and arguably the most draft capital of all-time. Thunder General Manager and Executive Vice President Sam Presti has done a fantastic job in setting the Thunder up extremely well for the future. Through a series of trades over the past year and a half that began with the sudden blockbuster that sent Paul George to the Clippers, the Thunder have not only collected solid young players, but have filled their treasure chest with 37 draft picks over the next six years (19 first round picks, 18 second round picks). 

NBA teams are only allowed 15 players on a roster, so what are the Thunder going to do with all of these draft picks? Of course they will draft a few players with them, especially if the picks are in the lottery or even in the top 5. As for the rest, many believe that the Thunder will use them as trade assets to acquire pieces to place around future all-star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. 

Many veteran players are acquired by contending teams for the price of one or two second round picks, so it’s safe to assume that the Thunder will follow suit when they are competing in the future. While veteran players are good additions for teams who are competitive, the Thunder have to reach that threshold first. To reach the point of contention, the Thunder need star power, and it will have to come through the draft or through trade, because Oklahoma City is simply not a huge city with big lights and exposure that would attract big-time free agents. 

So how did the Thunder get to this point? Draft picks. But not by drafting players. The Thunder at some point will need to go all in for a superstar with all of their draft capital, and by having all these assets, the second a star becomes disgruntled with their current situation, the Thunder are automatically an enticing trade partner for a team who is desperate to get something out of a player. This article covers three young stars who could be potential trade targets for the Thunder in the future. 

Karl-Anthony Towns

The Minnesota Timberwolves are not good, as I’m sure is evident to many people. Any combination they’ve tried over the past few years has not worked out. A trio of Zach Lavine, Andrew Wiggins, and KAT never worked although they were always “one year away” from getting over the hump. Finally they pulled the trigger and made a win now move trading for Jimmy Butler, but that ended terribly. They made the playoffs for the first time in 13 years with that team, but proceeded to get stomped in the first round by the Houston Rockets, so if you want to call that a success, go ahead. With their last conference finals appearance coming in 2004 and wasting all of Kevin Garnett’s prime, the Minnesota Timberwolves do not have a very good history of competing. They now have a trio of star rookie Anthony Edwards, 1x all-star D’Angelo Russell, and KAT. 

Many reports have come out saying that Russell and KAT may be on the trading block this upcoming offseason as the Timberwolves may look to build around Anthony Edwards, which leads me to the point of KAT being a trade target for the Thunder. KAT is 25 years old and undeniably a top three offensive center in the league, after MVP candidates Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid. There is an argument on whether or not KAT fits in with the Thunder’s timeline of competing, but many also don’t see it as an issue. The Thunder will likely be competing consistently for a top seed in the Western Conference in five years, and by then KAT will be 30, which isn’t ideal, but still would work. 

KAT is not even in his prime yet and still has room to improve. Putting him around a winning culture with OKC where almost every player who is with the team exceeds expectations and says great things about the organization would be great for his full development as a player. Not to mention KAT is under contract until the end of the 2024 season, so trading for him earlier could show him how great OKC is if he gets two or three years to play there before a free agency decision. 

Zion Williamson

After Karl-Anthony Towns, there aren’t many immediate trade targets for the Thunder, so we have to look deeper into the future, which brings us to the next candidate; Zion Williamson. In only his second season, Zion has already had an all-star appearance averaging 26.4 PPG and 7.1 RPG on terrific efficiency. Zion has almost flown under the radar this season with the rise of rookie Lamelo Ball taking the media by storm. Being an all-star at 20 years old isn’t a fluke though, and like the Timberwolves, the New Orleans Pelicans have not been very competitive over the past decade, and despite young players around Zion like Lonzo Ball and his co-star Brandon Ingram, the Pelicans just can’t seem to steer the ship in the right direction even though they look to have most of the pieces in place. 

Of course the Pelicans are not looking to trade Zion at the moment, rightfully so. This is why Zion would be a candidate for the future, because if the Pelicans continue down the never-ending path of mediocrity, Zion could get tired of this and request a trade. Another two reasons the Pelicans could trade him is because one, they might feel like they can’t re-sign him towards the end of his contract and will want to get something out of him before he leaves, or reason #2, he has an astronomical amount of trade value even just right now, and it’s only growing as he continues to improve. Right now a trade for Zion Williamson would likely command anywhere from 6-8 1st round picks, or he might even be untouchable, but Zion is definitely a player that the Thunder should keep their eye on in the future. 

      Jayson Tatum

This one is quite the pipe dream, but possible. By possible I’d give it about a 5% chance, but any chance is better than none at all, so it’s worth a look. At 23 years old, Jayson Tatum is already a 2x all-star with All-NBA potential. Tatum has increased his production every year in the league and is the #1 option on the Boston Celtics alongside fellow all-star teammate Jaylen Brown. Tatum this season is averaging 25.2 PPG on 45% shooting and 37% from three. Tatum isn’t extremely efficient but he’s about league average, and his elite shot creation makes up for it. 

A trade for Jayson Tatum would be built about the same as a trade for Zion Williamson, but this one is more difficult because unlike the Timberwolves and Pelicans, the Celtics are a storied franchise known for winning. The reason this whole idea has come up is because of the Celtics average play this year that currently has them as the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference, which isn’t usual for them. Tatum has said before that he wants to play in Boston his whole career, but as Thunder fans should know very well, player’s minds can change (*cough* Kevin Durant *cough*). 

Not only would Tatum elevate the Thunder to title contention, but he is also a perfect fit alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Both are elite shot creators and can get a bucket whenever needed. Both have also shown elevated play down the stretch in the 4th quarter, and have shown they can perform in the playoffs on the big stage. Tatum would be the perfect fit next to Shai, and that team would go places. 

But for now Thunder fans can only hope and wonder, what will they do with all of those draft picks? The only thing to do is wait and see. As much fun as it is to speculate and think of crazy scenarios in our heads it’s impossible to know what the future holds, but it sure is bright for the Thunder.