State of the Franchise: Thunder owns record-setting draft capital

The Oklahoma City Thunder are positioned to have one of the brightest futures of any team in the NBA. With a record-setting number of future draft picks, Thunder General Manager Sam Presti has the flexibility to go in a variety of directions as the franchise rebuilds towards contention
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Since being knocked out of the first round in the 2019 NBA Playoffs by the Portland Trail Blazers, the Oklahoma City Thunder have made quite the pivot as a franchise. 

Albeit not fun for Thunder fans at the time, it was that moment that kicked off what would be the greatest stockpile of future draft picks in NBA history.

Finishing the 2018-19 season with the star-studded duo of Paul George and Russell Westbrook, Sam Presti was about to get faced with quite the dilemna. With George requesting out of Oklahoma City, Presti had to make a decision on the future of the franchise. With his back against the wall, he ultimately traded George to the LA Clippers, receiving a record-setting haul of draft capital to go along with future star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and veteran Danilo Gallinari. From there, it only made sense to move Russell Westbrook to a contender and begin a rebuild. Presti would trade him to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul and more future draft capital.


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The 2019-20 season was one many thought would be a down year for OKC after trading these two NBA All-Stars. Instead, the Thunder actually finished with a better win percentage than the season before. With Chris Paul at the helm, re-writing the narrative on his ability to help a team, Oklahoma City made the playoffs, blowing expectations out of the water.

Following the 2020 NBA Playoffs, Presti went all in on the rebuild, sending Paul, Dennis Schroder, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams to teams across the league for even more draft capital and young talent. At that point, it was clear that Oklahoma City was no longer set to be a playoff team, but rather develop young talent and build through high-quality draft picks heading into the 2020-21 season.

Once again, during last month's trade deadline, Presti made even more moves that prioritized bringing in young talent and acquiring draft picks. Now, over the next seven drafts, between first-round picks, second-round picks and swaps, Presti owns 37 selections. In fact, over this seven-year span, the Thunder own at least one pick from 14 of the 30 NBA teams across the league.

Thunder Draft Capital

TradeNBA

YearRoundTeam

2021

1

Thunder

2021

1

Rockets/Heat (Best)

2021

1

Warriors

2021

2

Nuggets

2021

2

Clippers

2022

1

Suns

2022

1

Clippers

2022

2

Thunder

2023

1

Thunder

2023

1

Nuggets

2023

1

Clippers (Swap)

2023

1

Heat

2023

2

Thunder

2023

2

Mavericks/Heat (Best)

2023

2

Wizards

2024

1

Thunder

2024

1

Rockets

2024

1

Clippers

2024

2

Thunder

2024

2

Hornets

2024

2

Timberwolves

2025

1

Thunder

2025

1

Sixers

2025

1

Rockets/Clippers (Best)

2025

2

Thunder

2025

2

Hawks

2025

2

Sixers

2026

1

Thunder

2026

1

Rockets

2026

1

Clippers

2026

2

Thunder

2026

2

Mavericks

2026

2

Sixers

2027

1

Thunder

2027

2

Thunder

2027

2

Rockets

2027

2

Pacers

2027

2

Heat

This gives Presti and the rest of the front office the ultimate flexibility. Not only do they have a solid young core headlined by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but they can go in nearly any direction now to build towards contention. 

While they will likely have one of the better picks in the next couple of drafts, they can now move up as much as they want or acquire more top-end picks by packaging future draft capital. Additionally, as soon as a disgruntled young star around the league demands a trade, there’s likely no team that could match an offer Oklahoma City could make if they really wanted to go get that player.

With the way Presti has positioned the franchise with an entire roster of players in their teens or early twenties along with the record-setting draft capital, its not a matter of if the Thunder will be a contender again, it’s when. As soon as Presti is ready to expedite the rebuild and push some of his chips in to acquire talent, he will be able to do so. 

The two-year anniversary of Portland knocking off the Thunder in the 2019 NBA Playoffs is less than two weeks away, making what Sam Presti has been able to accomplish even more impressive in such a short amount of time. In less than two years, he's put together the ultimate rebuilding package.