Do the Thunder Control the Victor Wembanyama Sweepstakes?
The 2023 NBA Draft will be one of the most anticipated drafts in recent memory. Victor Wembanyama is the clear-cut favorite to be selected first overall and is a generational talent. Any team would fall in love with a 7-foot-4 prospect that has the skill set Wembanyama possesses. The ability to land the highly sought-after Frenchman might cause a few NBA teams to tank their season away. However, the Oklahoma City Thunder could control the entire Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes.
Over the past few years, Sam Presti has become a meme across the NBA. With the astronomical amount of draft picks he has been collecting, it seems like Presti is obsessed with draft day.
Ever since Presti broke up the core of Paul George and Russell Westbrook in 2019, the Thunder have been stockpiling future draft picks.
Throughout the past few years, the Thunder have had a mix of ways of collecting these picks via trades. Whether that’s sending away quality players or taking on bad contracts in return, they have a large swath of future picks. With 15 total first-round selections up until the 2029 NBA Draft, the Thunder are waiting for the perfect opportunity to use those picks. Maybe Presti has been setting himself up to guarantee Wembanyama ends up in Oklahoma City the entire time.
It should be noted that the Thunder already have an incredible core in place due to the rebuilding process. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and Chet Holmgren are the team’s future. Just imagine if they slide Wembanyama into that group. Having two seven-footers who can stretch the floor and shoot the ball would be a nightmare for defenses to defend. Factor in the playmaking ability of Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey and it makes it even more impossible for teams to game plan around.
However, it’s no guarantee that Wembanyama becomes a member of the Thunder in the draft. So how can Presti make this dream become a reality?
How Could the Thunder Land Victor Wembanyama?
The Oklahoma City Thunder aren’t a playoff team this year with the Western Conference being what it is. So that puts the Thunder in a prime position to land themselves a spot in the lottery this year. It’s hard to imagine the Thunder being anything other than a bottom-five team in the league this year. So, if they win the lottery and the No. 1 overall pick in 2023, they’ll end up selecting Wembanyama without question.
On the other hand, if the Thunder doesn’t end up with the first pick, then the possibility of getting the No. 1 pick via trade will become tricky. No team would want to pass up the possibility of drafting Wembanyama. Most teams would be crazy to do so. However, the Thunder have the capital to tempt a franchise in doing so.
Presti would have to become with the team that does wind up getting the first pick. While negotiating, the 44-year-old can immediately offer up a host of picks from their arsenal. Regardless of how many picks they can offer, are draft picks alone enough to get the deal done? Oklahoma City could also throw in one of their younger players if need be.
While looking at recent history, the last time the number one overall pick was traded was when the Philadelphia 76ers traded up from the third pick to draft Markelle Fultz in 2017. The 76ers traded away only a few first-round picks to select Fultz, which won’t be the case for Wembanyama. In 2014, the Cavaliers traded away first-overall pick Andrew Wiggins, former first-overall pick Anthony Bennett and a first for Kevin Love, which is more than the Fultz trade.
If the Thunder would trade up for the first overall pick, they would have what it takes. Oklahoma City could include a combination of multiple first-round picks and a young player in Holmgren, Giddey, or Gilgeous-Alexander, which could entice some teams. Nevertheless, the Thunder might not want to part with any of those players. If so, maybe a combination of young players, outside of the big four, and multiple picks could be the route to go.
Whatever happens throughout the season, it seems like the Thunder are well-positioned to win the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. A lot could change from now to July; however, Presti and the Thunder are in a good spot if they fail to land the first overall pick. It’ll be hard for a team to pass up on Wembanyama, but it seems like the Thunder could control the sweepstakes for the tantalizing prospect regardless.