Just over a month remains in the regular season, and NBA teams are preparing for their final push— regardless of its up or down the standings.
Five players, Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs, Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga, are all thought of as players who would be worthy of the No. 1-overall pick in most years.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have 34 draft picks over the next seven years, leaving many to wonder if this is the season in which general manager Sam Presti cashes in to move up in the draft.
But unfortunately for the OKC, it appears the price will be steep as they’ll have to move up considerably to land at the top.
Currently the Thunder have the seventh best odds at the top pick, and if the season ended today OKC would have just a 7.5 percent chance for their ping pong ball to be pulled first.
There could still be plenty of movement though. While the Thunder overachieved expectations early in the year, Oklahoma City is 1-9 over their last 10 games, the worst mark in the league.
Dreams of a pair of picks in the top five look to be all but dead, however.
The Thunder own a pick-swap with the Houston Rockets, which would allow OKC to own the two highest picks between Houston, the Miami Heat and themselves, but the Rockets pick has a top-five protection.
Christian Wood’s reintroduction to the Rockets lineup has done little to steady their ship, as Houston remains the franchise with the second worst record in the NBA. Things aren’t looking up either as Houston is 2-8 over their last 10 games, right on the heels of the Thunder’s rough patch.
So, all signs point toward Miami, who look to climb up the NBA standings as they prepare for the playoffs. If the season ended today, it is likely the Heat pick would net the Thunder the No. 19-overall selection as well.
At the beginning of the season, there was actually a scenario in which Presti and the Thunder ended up with three first round picks as well. If the Golden State Warriors pick was outside of the top 20, it would become an OKC selection as a part of the Kelly Oubre Jr. preseason trade.
Golden State currently would pick 12th, and appears to be in no shape to make a late-season push to vault into the upper third of the NBA, so the Thunder will end up with Minnesota’s 2021 second round pick as compensation.
On paper, the Thunder will likely miss out on the coveted top five prospects in the 2021 draft, but given Presti’s negotiating skills and the unprecedented draft capital he has accrued, anything can happen on draft night.