The Oklahoma City Thunder are the most pleasantly surprising team in the NBA this season. With only days until the trade deadline, they have held steady atop the Western Conference, as they are tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves for first place with a record of 35-15.
The Thunder are a dominant home team and have more than held their own on the road. Their 8.0-point differential is second in the NBA, behind only the Boston Celtics, who have the best record at 38-12.
It would not be crazy to say the Thunder are legitimate contenders this season. Teams with as much youth as they rely on normally fall off at some point, but Oklahoma City looks like they are here to stay for the long haul.
Their roster has everything you want to see from a contending team. There is an MVP candidate in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and All-Star level contributors in Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams. Their rotation is deep across the board, giving them the ability to mix and match with lineup combinations depending on what their opponent throws at them.
But, even the best teams could use a little bit of tweaking to improve, even if it is only on the margins. That is what separates very good teams from true contenders. Luckily for the Thunder, they have the assets to pull off any kind of trade they want.
Armed with a treasure trove of draft capital and overflowing with high-upside young talent, there isn’t a franchise in the NBA that can compete with an all-in offer from the Thunder. Who could thy look to target ahead of the deadline?
Andre’ Snellings of ESPN would love to see them make a deal with the Toronto Raptors centered around Jakob Poeltl and Dennis Schroder. Both veterans would address needs on the roster, turning Oklahoma City into a legitimate title contender.
“The Thunder field one of the best starting lineups in the league, but they don’t have a lot of experienced depth at either big man or point guard. With this deal, they get starter-level quality at both. While Chet Holmgren is one of the front-runners for Rookie of the Year while starting at center, he is still a rookie with a thin frame who missed all of last season while injured. Poeltl is a walking double-double threat with the girth (7-foot, 260 pounds) of a natural center. With Holmgren’s agility and excellent jump shot, he and Poeltl could play together as well.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is an MVP candidate as the Thunder’s point guard, but he is more of a scoring lead guard than a true floor general. Josh Giddey, on the other hand, is more natural as a distributor, but his jumper is not always consistent. Schroder complements both, as a scoring point guard with size and a nice shooting stroke. Schroder, who played two seasons in OKC, has run teams in the playoffs, has experience as both a starter and a sixth man, could play in the same backcourt with either SGA or Giddey and would give the Thunder some insurance in case of injury.” Snellings wrote.
The Raptors have finally embraced a rebuild, albeit a little late in the opinion of some analysts. They let Fred VanVleet walk in free agency, hired a new head coach and have traded away OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam in the last few months. Toronto is open for business and should continue making deals if the opportunity presents itself.
In this deal with the Thunder, Snellings suggests they take back Davis Bertans, Aleksej Pokusevski, Tre Mann, Aaron Wiggins, two first-round picks and two second-round picks. That is quite a haul for them as they get a look at some young players and more draft capital.
The Thunder addresses their lack of experience with Poeltl and Schroder entering the mix. As Snellings notes, they also address needs on the roster as Poeltl provides much-needed size in the frontcourt and Schroder has the skill set to play alongside the other guards in the rotation.
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