DALLAS - Entering the 2021 NBA Draft Lottery, the Oklahoma City Thunder had a best-case scenario of coming away with both the No. 1 and holding onto the Houston Rockets' first-round pick, ideally at No. 4 overall in the order. Could this have created a trade opportunity for the Dallas Mavericks?
Well...neither of those best-case OKC outcomes ended up happening. The Thunder ended up having their first-round pick land at No. 6 after initially having the fourth best odds for the top pick. Meanwhile, the Rockets held onto their pick and slotted in at No. 2 in the order.
With the Rockets holding onto their pick, the Thunder will instead receive the Miami Heat's first-round selection in this year's draft. Oklahoma City currently holds the No. 6, 16, and 18 picks in the first-round prior to any potential trades.
Based on NBA Draft projections, the Thunder likely will land themselves a wing prospect with the No. 6 selections. Jonathan Kuminga is likely to go at the back end of the top-five, but Scottie Barnes, Keon Johnson, Frank Wagner, and Jalen Johnson will all be options, among others.
The Thunder would have surely loved to have landed Cade Cunningham with the top pick. The ever-so-versatile big man, Evan Mobley, would have been an ideal center option, too. It would have been intriguing to land Jalen Green or Jalen Suggs as well. None of those appear to be options now without a trade up.
Al Horford was never part of the long-term plans and he's now a member of the Boston Celtics. Moses Brown no longer is a member of the Thunder, either. With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander being such a crafty lane penetrator, could Oklahoma City look to acquire a stretch-big?
Kristaps Porzingis has his injury concerns, but he is still only 25-years-old and would fit in nicely in Gilgeous-Alexander's timeline, who will be 23-years-old in mid-July. With Kemba Walker in the fold and no shortage of draft assets, a Porzinigs trade appears logical.
While much of the focus surrounding the Thunder has been placed on ping pong balls, they already have a highly talented guard in Gilgeous-Alexander who made major strides last season. He averaged 23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.9 assists with great efficiency. He's ready to lead a team at a high-level.
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The Thunder deployed what was the NBA's least efficient offense last season with an output of just 0.931 points per possession. Oklahoma City produced just 0.929 points per possession (29th) on spot-up plays and 1.049 points per possession (28th) on roll man sequences. There is a genuine need for Porzingis in this regard.
Last season, Gilgeous-Alexander posted legitimately elite results as a scorer using ball screens despite facing constant deep drops. His pull-up was firing on all cylinders and he managed to finish at a very high clip around the basket despite the conditions. Imagine having a pick-and-pop threat that pulls the big out of the paint?
One of the concerns the Mavericks held with Porzingis was how he struggled to execute against switches downlow. That will not change, of course. However, Gilgeous-Alexander at least is an impact isolation scorer in his own right and having Porzingis space out is an option.
The Thunder would be buying low on Porzingis with hopes that his movement out in space can recover after a full offseason without having to rehab any injuries. Porzingis rarely has benefited from being healthy at the end of a season, so it's not a baseless or hopeless idea.
Overall, it's not easy to find a stretch big that can knock down jumpers like Kristaps Porzingis, even if he has limitations to his game. The Thunder could genuinely use that type of impact and now, the NBA Draft Lottery has made it more logical to use the trade route.
Of course, there's always the possibility the OKC Thunder want to continue a long carved out rebuild and avoid making a splash trade. However, buying low on Porzingis without giving up major draft assets is a better gamble than a Kemba Walker reclamation project, to say the least.
The Mavericks must determine if selling low on Kristaps Porzingis is the route they want to take. It will be challenging to shuffle the supporting cast around Luke Doncic too much without moving Porzingis. There's a case to be either way, but a decision is needed, nevertheless.