With the recent news that Chet Holmgren is out for the season, the Oklahoma City Thunder are facing yet another season at the bottom of the Western Conference. The number two overall pick had high expectations and good odds of winning the Rookie of the Year award while giving hope to Oklahoma City Thunder fans that they would actually be a competitive team this year.
Without him, this team’s roster essentially mirrors last year’s, meaning another year of bottoming out for a top pick. While some fans might be excited about this, there is one individual who might not be. The former Kentucky Wildcat, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He is a competitor in every sense of the word.
He made the playoffs in his first year in the NBA with the Los Angeles Clippers and once more with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Since then, he has faced two years of this team blatantly tanking and vying for top lottery picks. He even had to go as far as sitting out games for this cause.
At 24, he is likely facing a third straight year of that situation. What is his future here, and would Oklahoma City entertain a trade if he asked to leave? Before we break that down, let’s look at a similar situation between a player and a team that transpired this off-season.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander & Dejounte Murray, a tale of two point guards.
The San Antonio Spurs and Dejounte Murray just parted ways this off-season. San Antonio is facing its first rebuild in decades and decided that moving their best player was the best way to solidify that. It was a mutual split, with San Antonio getting some extra assets for their rebuild and Murray getting sent to a team that is ready to compete.
While Murray and Gilgeous-Alexander are around the same age and talent level, the one difference is that Gilgeous-Alexander is locked into a five-year contract. To be clear, the Oklahoma City Thunder could absolutely just hold onto the young Canadian, but Gilgeous-Alexander is also roughly four to five years older than the rest of his key teammates. By the time these kids hit his age, Gilgeous-Alexander will be pushing 30.
There is an argument to be made that his timeline does not fit with the rest of the team. Oklahoma City would also stand to benefit considerably from a trade and would net more than what San Antonio got for Dejounte Murray. Moreover, NBA front offices would be making calls left and right if they found out Gilgeous-Alexander was available.
What teams would be the best fit and have the most to offer the Oklahoma City Thunder?
The Miami Heat have been involved in many potential deals, including attempts to acquire Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell. It’s possible that if Gilgeous-Alexander becomes available, they offer a package that includes Tyler Herro, Nikola Jovic, and Max Strus, with a few draft picks to boot. That would give Oklahoma City several terrific young players and further draft capital.
Another team would be the Golden State Warriors, with their key piece being James Wiseman. They can also add Jonathon Kuminga and Moses Moody as well, but what could really hold a hypothetical deal back is Jordan Poole’s injury.
In order to make a deal work, Golden State would likely have to include Poole but Gilgeous-Alexander and his playstyle would be essentially a juiced-up version of Poole with much better defense. One could argue that doing all this would be too much of a sacrifice, but maybe it’s worth it for an aging Golden State roster.
Finally, we are going to the New Orleans Pelicans to see what they have to offer. New Orleans is in an interesting situation, with Zion Williamson joining his team once more after missing a season due to injury. In this scenario, this team has the ability to build a big three around Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram.
They can offer a package of Herb Jones, Dyson Daniels, and C.J McCollum with their own range of draft picks as well. Oklahoma City can later flip McCollum for additional assets, as they have before with veteran Al Horford.
A lot of teams could be in the mix, but the aforementioned teams have great assets while also giving him a good chance at truly competing. Oklahoma City has plenty of options to pursue here. Each one ends with some nice young talent with a similar timeline heading their way. Sure, they can absolutely hold onto Gilgeous-Alexander but there might be a scenario out there where both sides can win.