With the NBA draft less than two weeks away the Oklahoma City Thunder are reportedly gauging the trade market for their draft pick. There are three possible trade scenarios that make sense for the Thunder’s goals.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have the 21st overall pick in this month’s NBA draft.
It appears that they may not make a selection.
According to a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania (subscription required), the Thunder have talked to multiple teams about trading their 21st overall pick in an effort to reduce their massive financial burden.
As currently constructed Oklahoma City’s 2019-20 payroll is at $144.5 million with only nine players under contract. With the projected luxury tax line at $132 million the Thunder are guaranteed to be — at minimum — $15 million into the tax.
Due to being repeating tax payers in multiple seasons Oklahoma City will have to pay $4.50 for every dollar in salary they spend over the luxury tax line.
So, currently surpassing the tax apron by $12.5 million, the team would be on the hook for a $56.3 million tax bill. Again, that is with the team at only nine players on the roster.
Couple that massive tax bill with the fact that the team has underperformed and failed to reach the second round of the playoffs the past three seasons — two of which included Paul George — and you can start to understand why the ownership group may be pressuring the front office to cut some fat.
Now, a strict salary dump for the Thunder would be surprising. The team has Russell Westbrook and Paul George under contract for at least two more seasons and has ducked the tax line in the past in preparation to spend heavily during the team’s prime years.
Trading away their draft pick and an unwanted salary for nothing in return would not only make the on-court product worse, but also signal to the stars of the team that the ownership group may be ready to move on.
Instead it seems much more likely that Thunder General Manager Sam Presti will try to trade the draft pick — plus the salary of a current player — in order to bring back a player on a smaller contract but still able to contribute.
Presti isn’t a stranger to these types of deals. In the summer of 2018 he traded Carmelo Anthony‘s $26.2 million dollar contract plus a future first-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Dennis Schroder, who made only $15.5 million.
The team saved over $10 million in salary while also bringing in a quality player.
He did the same type of trade back in Nov of 2016, sending Ersan Illasova ($8.4 million) and a conditional 2020 first round pick in exchange for Jerami Grant ($980k).
While Presti may choose to keep the draft pick, if he does elect to trade it in an attempt to save money there are three possible deals that seem to make the most sense.