The Oklahoma City Thunder started Wednesday morning with some surprising news.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Thunder agreed to a contract buyout with guard Kemba Walker, who intends to sign with the New York Knicks.
Walker, the player coming back to Oklahoma City in exchange for Al Horford, appeared as if he was never going to play a game in a Thunder uniform as Wojnarowski reported on draft night that OKC was making Walker available for physicals with other teams in the hopes to facilitate a trade.
Unfortunately for Presti, the trade never materialized, and Walker will walk for no draft compensation.
Walker had $74 million left on his contract, but it is unlikely the Thunder will pay out the full amount depending on the deal the guard is getting to join the Knicks.
The money is less of an issue for OKC though, as they had approximately $28 million in salary cap space left after the free agency flurry.
While Presti was unable to get back another first round pick for Walker, he was able to sell high on the No. 16 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, netting first-round draft compensation, as well as getting a first-round pick back in the Derrick Favors trade, leaving the Thunder total at 18 first round picks over the next six years.
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Additionally, the absence of Walker also clears the way for OKC’s young core to continue getting minutes.
It was unclear where No. 6-overall pick Josh Giddey fit into the Thunder starting lineup with Walker on the roster, but now he can slot alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort and clear a path for his development. Theo Maledon and Tre Mann will also get more minutes as a result, allowing Mark Daigneault to guide the young core through the 2021-22 season.
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