Start Time - 7:00 P.M (CT),
Broadcaster - ESPN
The 2021 NBA Draft is a point of inflection for the Thunder. Oklahoma City has the opportunity to add young, cost-controlled talent to a roster that desperately needs talent. Outside of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort and perhaps Aleksej Pokusevski, the Thunder do not any real long-term star potential prospects.
Oklahoma City currently owns No. 6, No. 16, No. 18, No. 34, No. 36 and No. 55. The Thunder have the potential to add six players in this Draft but that outcome is highly unlikely. Adding six rookies to the roster will unbalance the team and will harm the long-term outcomes of the team particularly if the Thunder are planning on building around Shai.
To me, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has superstar written all over him and it is nonsensical to consider trading Shai while he is still on his rookie deal. Make no mistake, as soon as Shai signs his second contract, the clock is running. Oklahoma City have to be good by 2026 to have any chance of Shai re-signing.
But, the point of this sport is to win games. I do not understand the logic of trading a player with All-NBA potential for a slightly younger, more limited player with All-NBA player. The Thunder have to try to win and I fully expect Sam Presti to make moves with winning in mind.
For that reason, I do not buy all of the rumours and aggregation that cast aspersions on Shai’s future as a Thunder player. No player is truly untouchable but the price for Shai is so prohibitively high that a trade is incredibly unlikely.
Now, that does not mean that I think the Thunder will take Bouknight or Kuminga at 6. It is still likely that the Thunder will try to move up in the Draft and get someone like Evan Mobley. Mobley has legitimate star potential and is one of the best center prospects in quite some time.
The Draft is not solely affected by the Thunder’s intentions. The Cleveland Cavaliers need to start winning games; Koby Altman is on the hot seat. The Cavaliers have stunk up the joint during his tenure despite having three top-10 lottery picks in three years. There is no reason for Cleveland to be as bad as they are.
Dan Gilbert is unforgiving when it comes to General Managers; the only GM that Gilbert has extended during his time owning Cavs is Altman. David Griffin won a championship, the Cavs only championship and was allowed to walk.
Kevin Love’s contract extension was a costly mistake by the Cavaliers and the Thunder are one of the few teams who have the cap space to take on Love’s contract. Cleveland acquired their center of the future in Jarrett Allen in the Harden trade. Cleveland trading down to take a wing like Kuminga or Barnes while getting off Love’s contract is a sensible decision.
The other interesting point worth noting relates to the Los Angeles Clippers. Kawhi Leonard’s torn ACL could mean that their 2022 pick has more value than what was expected three months ago. The Clippers without Leonard and possibly Reggie Jackson may struggle in the bloodbath of the Western Conference.
Dealing this pick to move up in the Draft could make a ton of sense for the Thunder. The 2022 Clippers pick, No. 16 and a really solid role player like Ty Jerome could be interesting for a team like Sacramento that needs to win now but still need the assets to build out the roster.
Whatever it is, the madness of the Draft will be exciting, a little scary and fun.