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Thunder Have Assets to Move up in 2021 Draft, But so Will Others

With a war chest of future picks and the assets to go along with it, Oklahoma City has a path to trade up in the 2021 NBA Draft, but so will other teams.

Luck wasn’t in Oklahoma City’s favor Tuesday night.

With a decent chance to land two top-five picks, the Thunder came away with just the sixth. It was a disappointing night for fans who’d watched several months worth of tanking.

But Thunder general manager Sam Presti has something up his sleeve, and it may involve the largest accumulation of draft assets the league has ever seen.

Even with the disappointing sixth pick, Oklahoma City still owns two other first round picks — No’s 16 and 18.

In a normal draft, those alone would help OKC move up the ranks. But 2021 has a clear top five prospects, making it hard to crack into.

Still, Oklahoma City has the assets to move up. The question is, how much will it cost?

Presti also has Kemba Walker, the recently acquired veteran and former All-Star, up his sleeve. Without a massive contract, Walker would fetch a pretty penny. But dealing the rest of a $36+37 million contract is tough work for any team salary-wise.

Chris Paul, Kemba Walker

Former All-Star guard Kemba Walker.

Had a team looking to contend snuck into the Top-5, Walker would be a shoe-in, but that wasn’t the case this season. The Raptors at No. 4 would be a potential suitor for Walker with the departure of Lowry, but more than likely will stick with a draftee to pair with Fred VanVleet.

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OKC also has a massive stash of future picks. Delving into those could send the Thunder higher in 2021, but are still a bit of an unknown at the moment.

Oklahoma City’s main contender in the race to trade for a higher pick is more than likely Orlando, who came away with both No. 5 and No. 8 on Tuesday night. Five and eight are valuable as a pair, but Oklahoma City’s tangible assets can’t go unnoticed.

The Thunder have also been into unburdening troublesome contracts in recent years. Several players fit this ill, including Kevin Love, John Wall or Otto Porter Jr.


Should Houston want to trade back, which is unlikely, OKC could send back future picks or swaps.

Opposing general managers will need to think strategically and entertain all offers before reaching a decision on trading up or down. The impact could send ripples throughout the league.

No matter the outcome, Presti is bound to make it interesting.