What are the Thunder doing?

By: Jacob Shindel, Columnist 

Columnist Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

Out of the 30 NBA teams, the Oklahoma City Thunder have had the busiest, most active and involved offseason so far. It seems that the team wants to accumulate as many assets as possible, in the form of first-round picks. It also seems as if no one is safe from being traded, for the right price. 

The Thunder have traded three of their top five players, in Chris Paul, Dennis Schroeder and Steven Adams. The lone remaining piece, and the most valuable, is soon-to-be third-year player, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

In a relatively quiet offseason, the Thunder have been revamping their roster with a combination of young players and expiring contracts. Teams will often trade a first-round pick to get a hefty contract off the books, as the Thunder did with Al Horford’s three year, $81 million contract. The Philadelphia 76ers, looking to move on from one of the worst free-agent signings last year, had to give up a first- and second- round pick to move him. The Thunder, with no clear direction other than asset accumulation, jumped onto this opportunity.

The Thunder seemed to be making all the right moves. They traded away Paul’s massive contract to the Phoenix Suns and got a nice return package centered around Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre Jr., a first-round pick and more. They even traded Rubio again for a few expiring contracts and a future pick.

Afterwards, they traded Oubre to the Golden State Warriors, already one of the best teams in the league. Throughout Oubre’s career, the 24-year-old has played for the Washington Wizards, the Phoenix Suns and now is getting shipped to the Warriors before playing a single game with the Thunder. 

Oubre has shown consistent growth throughout his career, averaging about 18 points and 6 rebounds per game during the 2019-2020 season. It doesn’t make too much sense as to why the Thunder decided to trade Oubre, especially considering that all they got back for him was a projected late first-round pick, which could end up converting into two second-round picks.

Over the next six drafts, from 2021-2027, the Thunder will have eighteen first-round picks. That’s a massive haul of picks, although there is no guarantee that the Thunder will have those players all on the same team. The Thunder, setting the tone over the last decade, they do not like to keep the roster the same for too long.

The Thunder have had an extremely talented roster, which at one point had James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Harden was the first to be traded. When the Thunder blew a 3-1 lead to the Warriors, Durant abandoned ship and joined the Warriors. Westbrook was the last one to go, getting traded to Houston where he reunited with Harden. 

Before getting traded to Houston, the Thunder had a big three of Westbrook, Paul George and Adams. That didn’t work out so the Thunder were once again thrust into rebuilding mode.
When will this stop? Eventually, the Thunder will have to stop preparing for the future and start preparing for the present. Young talent is great but there also needs to be a veteran presence to mold the young talent into formidable NBA talent. Right now, it seems as if the Thunder are not worried about the veteran presence. The direction of the team is unclear for now, especially after trading away Oubre, but Sam Presti, the general manager of the Thunder, is one of the best in the league and might have some more tricks to play over the next couple of weeks and/or season.

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