How the Thunder’s offseason moves set them up for future success

Last season, after trading away Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul in the preseason, the Thunder were picked by numerous sports media outlets to finish bottom three in the Western Conference. Billy Donovan and the entire Oklahoma City Thunder coaching staff and front office deserve all of the praise in the world because they not only exceeded expectations for the season, they shattered them. 

The Thunder finished the regular season with a 44-28 record and were the 5-seed in the Western Conference, setting them up for a matchup with who other than the Houston Rockets. Chris Paul and OKC gave the Rockets everything they had, forcing a Game 7 in the series, but ultimately coming up short of advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals on the final possession of the game. 

In all 5 seasons with the Thunder, Billy Donovan made the playoffs and while this was his most impressive season yet, Oklahoma City decided that he was not the coach of the future for them and decided to move on from Donovan as the head coach of the team. Within a couple of weeks of being let go by the Thunder, the Chicago Bulls quickly signed Billy Donovan to be their head coach for the foreseeable future. 

The Oklahoma City Thunder named Mark Daigneault their new head coach after promoting the 35-year-old assistant and former coach of their G League team as the replacement for departed coach Billy Donovan. After naming Daigneault the future head coach from within the organization, GM Sam Presti decided to tear everything apart this offseason and gather as many draft assets as possible. 

Chris Paul, Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder, and Danilo Gallinari (via sign-and-trade) were all traded from the Thunder this offseason in exchange for most first-round draft picks as it seemed like only Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort and Darius Bazley were safe from the trade block. 

When all was said and done, the Thunder ended up with Al Horford, George Hill, Trevor Ariza, Ty Jerome, Jalen Leqcue, Darius Miller, Admiral Schofield, Joshia Gray, Kenrich Williams, Zylan Cheatham, Justin Jackson and Vincent Poirier as all new faces to the organization. The only returning players on the roster for the Thunder this upcoming season are SGA, Dort, Bazley, Hamidou Diallo and Mike Muscala. 

With about 20 players under contract, the Thunder will definitely be making some roster cuts after training camp, but they are not concerned about that as the only thing on their front office’s mind are the draft picks they acquired throughout the offseason. The Thunder now own the rights to 18 first-round draft picks over the course of the next 7 NBA drafts and between first and second-round picks, they have 31 draft picks through the 2027 NBA Draft. To put things in perspective, the 2027 NBA Draft will have NBA prospects who are currently in middle school. 

Who knows what Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder front office plan on doing with all of these draft picks, but they definitely have something up their sleeve to not only draft fantastic, young players to build their core of the future, but they will likely try and acquire at least one or two big time superstar talents. 

While this season the Thunder may be “inadvertently tanking,” they likely do not care about where they finish in the standings because of the draft assets they have. Whatever their plan is, it will likely enact either at this season’s trade deadline or at the conclusion of the 2020-21 NBA season, which could completely flip the league upside-down. 

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