Within a week until the NBA Trade Deadline, (March 25th), it’s now decision time for the Thunder Front Office. The team’s record is neither good enough to be firmly in the playoffs nor poor enough to be in the running for a top Draft Pick. This is quite a quandary for a rebuilding team that could really use an elite prospect only attainable at the top of the Draft. If OKC’s plan is as thought, then clearly, they must make some moves to allow that to happen. They can’t rely solely on the periodic resting of players if they truly want a Top 5 Pick.
The team, as currently constructed, is too good to tank. This is both a sparkling reflection of the outstanding culture of the Thunder organization and the high character of the players within. They compete hard every night and refuse to back down. To get into the Top 5 of the Draft Lottery this season, OKC must do some roster shuffling. The Thunder have already traded Hamidou Diallo and Trevor Ariza prior to the Deadline, but more substantial deals must occur to enable Draft success. Veterans such as Al Horford, George Hill, and Mike Muscala are prime candidates to trade. While Presti has often been for maximizing the value of assets when trading, this might be the rare instance where he’d be okay with taking a loss on assets to ensure that OKC’s own pick reaches the optimum value. Whatever the case, in my opinion, fans should expect more trades leading up to the NBA Deadline.
OKC could also choose to ride this season out, as is. The team clearly is a lovable bunch who have endeared themselves to the fanbase. They’d likely still end up with a lottery pick in the Draft, just probably not a Top 5 Pick. The last, and least likely option, would be for them to go all-in, and cash in at the Deadline. This would seemingly be a shortsighted decision for moderate success now rather than tremendous success later. Sam Presti has stated that he wants the organization to experience “tremendous success.” The “all-in” option probably does not result in success. Whatever the Thunder decide to do, the next week’s developments will be fascinating to watch.