Though he’s the newest member of the team, Kemba Walker may be the key to Oklahoma City’s hopes of moving up on draft night.
On Draft Lottery night, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski hinted that the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Houston Rockets may be willing to entertain the idea trading out of the top five in an effort to expedite their rebuild.
Short of trading Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Sam Presti’s Oklahoma City Thunder are short on “win now” assets to entice a trade, meaning Walker may be on the move before he ever dons a Thunder jersey.
Cleveland may be interested in adding a veteran guard like Walker to help mentor Collin Sexton and Darius Garland.
Shipping the sixth pick, 16th pick and 18th picks to Cleveland might get the job done, but the Thunder will likely have to take on a contract like Kevin Love’s to make the deal.
Looking to resuscitate his career in Tokyo during the Olympics, Love has two years left on his deal before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2023. Presti wouldn’t fear the challenge of taking on Love however, as he has proven he can flip a contract previously deemed as “untraceable” three times now, getting first round compensation back for Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Al Horford.
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A deal with the Rockets could be a bit more complicated.
Houston already has experienced guard play between John Wall, Eric Gordon and D.J. Augustin.
Wall might actually be on the worst contract in the NBA. The length is the same as Love’s, but Wall is owed an average of $45.8 million a year, as opposed to $30 million per year Love has left.
But taking on Wall might be the only avenue to the second overall pick for the Thunder.
The struggle to get into the top five in the 2021 NBA Draft underlies how important the Draft Lottery truly was, and unfortunately the ping pong balls didn’t fall in the Thunder’s favor.