The Oklahoma City Thunder
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

The Oklahoma City Thunder After trading stars like Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and Chris Paul they now find themselves in a unique rebuilding situation. With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to build around and a staggering amount of draft assets for GM sam Presti to build the next era of Oklahoma City Thunder basketball. Being able to trade three stars from the roster at an opportune time has resulted in the Thunder acquiring 17 first-round picks and a multitude of seconds.

Their amount of Draft picks is now 34 until the 2027 NBA season. Many have praised the Thunder for the return they have got from trading their former star players. While the amount is impressive the quality of many of the picks is not. At a certain point when you acquiring too much of anything, there will be diminishing returns. The Thunder have reached that point and it would not surprise me by 2027 those that praised the haul look back on how underwhelming it really was.

The Reality Behind The First Round Picks

As I said before if you take a closer look at the picks the Oklahoma City Thunder have acquired it begins to become increasingly less impressive. One of the reasons is that they traded the players to contending teams which means the picks will not be of high value. For example, In the trade that sent Paul George to the Los Angles Clippers, the season Thunder acquired five first-round picks. Two first-rounders from Miami (2021 and 2023), and the right to swap picks in 2023 and 2025. Both the Heat and the Clippers are two teams that are clear contenders for the foreseeable future. After the Clippers re-signed Paul George to a max extension and the Heat trading for Victor Oladipo it would seem that these picks will not be in the lottery. While there can be steals late in the draft the odds are historically stacked against that happening.

Another reason is that pick protections throughout many of the trades significantly hurt the value for the Thunder looking to get value back from the stars they traded. In the Russell Westbrook trade, they acquired first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, and pick swaps in 2021 and 2025 from the Houston Rockets. The picks in 2021 and 2024 are the top four protected and the picks in 2025 and 2026 are top ten protected. The Houston rockets are almost guaranteed a top-four pick after trading their star player and going on a 20 game losing streak. Even out to 2026, the Rockets may still be one of the worst in the league and the protection get’s worse in the Thunder’s case because it goes to top 10.

Trading These Picks May Be Harder Than It Seems

In the NBA it’s getting increasingly harder to trade for young talent or moving up in the draft without giving up a large package of picks and rotational players. In some cases, the number of picks doesn’t matter because they aren’t worth anything in other General manager’s eyes. An example of this was the rejected Boston Celtics deal with the Charlotte Hornets. Boston attempted to move four first-round picks and two seconds in an attempt to move up to the 9th spot in the draft but that wasn’t enough to get the deal done.

One Premium pick often outweighs having an abundance of late first-rounders because high-end cost-controlled talent is extremely valuable in the NBA. The Thunder currently do not have a sure-fire premium pick that will convey to them anytime soon. This is why their thirty-four draft picks as things currently stand overrated. The Thunder will have to put together deals to move a large amount of these draft picks. Other teams know they will be desperate to move them or they would face the consequence of picks going to waste and those teams will take advantage of the situation. Sam Presti is one of the Best General managers in the NBA but he has set himself up to get diminishing return’s on his stockpile of draft picks.