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Report: Thunder’s First Round Pick in Play

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A report states that OKC could use its first round pick in a trade to reduce team salary

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Draft is a little over two weeks away, and according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Oklahoma City Thunder are active in talks regarding the 21st overall pick:

“The Thunder have had multiple conversations with various teams about using their No. 21 pick in a trade to reduce team salary and relieve financial pressure, league sources said.”

Some may read this as strictly using the first rounder as an appetizer to dump unwanted contracts in order to save money. The old “salary dump”, as the kids call it. A not-so-fun trade, akin to the Nuggets using draft picks to unload the contracts of Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur last season.

That could be true, though the OKC front office is wise to evaluate all options headed into the draft. And after last season’s disappointing finish, there are positive ways to make a salary dump.

For example, the Thunder could use the 21st pick to unload a couple of players with uncertain futures and bring back a lower-salaried rotation player in return. Perhaps the pick could be added to a larger salaried player as part of a bigger trade that improves the team and cuts costs.

Let your imagination go wild on who those players might be.

Using the pick to offload salary could also give them team flexibility this summer. The team has a $10.8 million trade exception that doesn’t expire until July 25. The Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception is expected to be worth just under $6 million. Having the financial ability to tap into those tools might be worth trading the pick in order to tidy up the books.

Of course, there will be all kinds of chatter this time of year from around the NBA. Today’s report doesn’t necessarily indicate anything definitive, but it might give an indication into the front office’s thought process headed into the summer.