After seemingly being too good to tank at the start of the 2020-21 NBA season, the Oklahoma City Thunder won just two of their last 25 games to finish with a 22-50 record. That gave the Thunder the fourth-best odds in the 2021 draft lottery, but that translated into just the sixth overall pick.
The Oklahoma City Thunder must put the disappointment of the draft lottery behind them and focus on the overall picture. GM Sam Presti has already resumed work on the rebuilding project by trading for Kemba Walker, in a move that netted OKC the 16th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft from the Boston Celtics.
More offseason moves on the cards for the Oklahoma City Thunder?
While the Kemba Walker trade was a good start, the Oklahoma City Thunder still have several holes to fill in their roster. They also need to acquire or consolidate assets that will improve the team in the long run. On that note, here are three needs that the Thunder need to address in the upcoming 2021 offseason.
#1 Add big men to the roster
The Oklahoma City Thunder sent centers Al Horford and Moses Brown to the Celtics in the process of acquiring Kemba Walker. Mike Muscala is becoming a free agent this summer, while Tony Bradley is entering restricted free agency.
This could potentially leave the Thunder without any recognized big men on the roster for the 2021-22 season. Isaiah Roby played as a stretch five in several games, but he simply doesn't have the size or physicality to become a regular at that spot.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will have to attempt signing centers this offseason. They could re-sign Bradley, but he doesn't seem like a part of the Thunder's future at this point. Muscala has expressed his desire to return to the Thunder, though.
OKC could also look to select a big man in the 2021 NBA Draft. They could've looked at drafting USC standout Evan Mobley, had their pick fallen into the top three. But since that isn't the case, the Thunder will have to look elsewhere. The likes of Alperen Sengun and Kai Jones could be potential targets.
#2 Oklahoma City Thunder need to acquire a top 5 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft
The Oklahoma City Thunder have a total of 17 first-round and 21 second-round draft picks from 2021 to 2027. Six of those picks will be in play this year, equally split between the two rounds.
It's fairly clear that OKC will not be drafting six players for the 2021-22 season. GM Sam Presti will be looking to consolidate the picks to move up the draft. But his efforts need to be concentrated towards upgrading from the sixth overall pick and entering the top five.
There's every chance that OKC may just hit the jackpot with their current picks, but on paper, the likes of Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Jalen Suggs, Evan Mobley and Jonathan Kuminga are the best players in this draft. The Thunder need to find a way to use their existing assets to move up and have a shot at drafting one of the five aforementioned players.
#3 Oklahoma City Thunder need to use veteran players and cap room to acquire future assets
Even though the upcoming draft will have a huge bearing on the Oklahoma City Thunder's future, rebuilding is a long and tedious process that takes multiple years. Hence, OKC must continue to acquire assets for the future and think about consolidating them later.
After absorbing Kemba Walker, the Oklahoma City Thunder are expected to have a practical cap space of $43 million for the 2021-22 season as things stand. The Thunder can use this room to take on salary dumps from other teams for draft picks or young players.
Even though Kemba Walker hasn't been at his best lately, he has some trade value too. There's every chance that the Thunder could flip Walker for an even heftier contract considering their limited salary commitments for the foreseeable future.
OKC has managed to turn the seemingly untradeable contracts of Chris Paul and Al Horford into multiple picks and players. So there's no reason to believe they'll be stuck with Walker until his deal expires.
The bottom line is that the Oklahoma City Thunder need to stay sharp in the trade window and remain open for business.