What OKC Thunder Need to Do Before the 2021 NBA Season
There’s little doubt that the Oklahoma City Thunder was one of the previous NBA season’s pleasant surprises. No one expected to see the team in the playoffs, but Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the franchise to fifth spot in the West.
The future of the Thunder looks bright, but there are big decisions to be made heading into the 2020-21 NBA season. The organization already made the first one by hiring Mark Daigneault as a head coach and that’s a good start.
I share my thoughts on the other major needs the Thunder will have to address in the upcoming offseason.
Trade Chris Paul
The previous NBA season was great for Chris Paul and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The veteran proved that he is still one of the best point guards in the league, helping the team overachieve in the process.
Paul had great numbers and led the franchise to the fifth spot in the Western Conference, which was a huge surprise for many, including the author of this piece. On top of that, the superstar served as a mentor for some of Thunder’s young players, such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
There’s another long-term benefit for both sides as a result of Paul’s phenomenal performance. The Thunder can trade his large contract and get valuable assets, while the point guard can easily find a contender and try to earn that elusive ring in the late stages of his career.
Everybody wins from such a trade, so the OKC absolutely must pull the trigger. The organization has a great young star like Gilgeous-Alexander, and plenty of draft picks from the Paul-Westbrook trade.
Adding more assets for the future would secure Thunder’s next five or more years. There are rumors that Kawhi wants Paul in the Clippers and we’ve seen reports linking him to the Suns as my colleague Mike Wynn reports in his post on four big NBA trades that could happen before the draft.
If Sam Presti plays his cards well, the organization could acquire plenty of useful young players and high draft picks.
Add Outside Shooters
All the signs suggest that Chris Paul will be traded this offseason, and Danilo Gallinari is a free agent. While the Italian might return to the Thunder, I expect him to find another team. He doesn’t fit the timeline, and plenty of organizations are looking for a guy who can shoot like him.
Losing that duo will significantly hurt the Thunder’s outside shooting because these were the top two three-point shooters on the roster.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dennis Schroeder, and the other players left are either average or don’t shoot from downtown at all. That’s unacceptable in modern NBA, not to mention that both Gilgeous-Alexander and Steven Adams needs space to operate in the paint.
There are several good free agents like Davis Bertans and Joe Harris that would be an excellent addition. Both are among the top sharpshooters in the NBA and can solve the problem. And yet, they might be too expensive at this point, because other teams will be interested too.
The team can hardly do much with the 25th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft either, so the issue has to be addressed through free agency or trades. There’s no other way around it.
Find a Second Star Next to Gilgeous-Alexander
The modern NBA is built around big threes and big twos. Just look at pretty much every champion in the past two decades or so. Dirk’s Mavericks are probably the only exception, but all other teams that lifted the title had a core of two or three big stars.
I believe that the Oklahoma City Thunder have found one of the pieces in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The guy has been excellent in his first season for the organization and improved under the guidance of Chris Paul.
If the franchise can find another young star that fits Gilgeous-Alexander’s timeline and qualities, this could be huge for the near future. The good news is that the Thunder certainly have the assets to acquire the right player.
Chris Paul, Steven Adams, and Dennis Schroeder are all attractive to plenty of other teams, and there are a ton of picks for the future as well. Sam Presti must use them to find the most suitable partner for his young stud this offseason.
The future is bright for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the team might be one of the best in the NBA in two or three years from now. The assets are there, and it’s up to the front office to use them properly.
This offseason could be critical, and making the best of Chis Paul’s high stocks should be the top priority. If the Thunder are successful, the organization could simultaneously build for the future and stay a playoff-team in 2021.