The Oklahoma City Thunder have a big hill to climb.
ESPN ranked OKC in dead last in their first edition of NBA power rankings post the NBA Draft and free agency.
After a historically bad close to the 2021 season, the Thunder were the big losers on lottery night. Their ping pong ball was drawn sixth, missing out on the projected elite talent at the top of this year’s draft.
But instead of cashing in for Jonathan Kuminga, OKC general manager Sam Presti raised eyebrows by selecting 6-foot-8 Australian point guard Josh Giddey.
While it will be a few years until it can be determined if Presti’s selection was the right one, the Thunder ensured that there would be a clear path for Giddey and his fellow first-round pick Tre Mann to develop.
Oklahoma City’s biggest move in free agency was to bring back stretch center Mike Muscala for another two years.
Ahead of the draft and free agency, the Thunder were rated as the No. 29 team by ESPN, just ahead of the Houston Rockets. But Houston’s additions of Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher and Usman Garuba proved to be enough to get the Rockets out of the cellar — at least on paper.
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The biggest addition to the Thunder roster in 2021–22 actually won’t be Giddey, Mann, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl or Aaron Wiggins, but a healthy Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Presti and the Thunder landed a big victory when the former Kentucky star agreed to a maximum extension with the franchise over the offseason, and if he can return to full health, Mark Daigneault and Presti will hope he can continue to make strides as his production was on fringe All-Star levels before he was shut down last year.
Regardless, the rebuild in Oklahoma City will press on this season as the Thunder continue to build their young core with the hope of returning to contention in the Western Conference.
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