The Oklahoma City Thunder appeared locked in as contenders for the foreseeable future after convincing Paul George to sign a new contract last summer. However, the Thunder suffered another bitterly disappointing first-round playoff exit for the third consecutive year, and George shocked the organization by requesting a trade to his native Los Angeles.
The organization eventually relented to PG13's demands, and Russell Westbrook soon followed his fellow All-Star out of Oklahoma City. After spending a decade with the franchise, Westbrook's exit signaled the end of the first phase of the Thunder's history and the franchise is now in rebuild mode.
However, general manager Sam Presti is armed with a record haul of future draft picks, and the Thunder also have the resources to pull off a number of significant moves in the trade market. So, as the Thunder build for the future, here we will examine three players that they should target via trade.
#3 Justise Winslow
Justise Winslow enjoyed a breakout 2018-19 season with the Miami Heat, although the 23-year-old could be available due to the Heat's desire to land a second star to play alongside the recently acquired Jimmy Butler.
Winslow performed well playing as a forward during his first three seasons in Miami, although his stock started to rise after being moved to point guard last season.
After taking on more responsibility, Winslow averaged 12.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.3 assists, while also shooting 37% from beyond the arc. The expectation is that more is to come from Winslow, and the Heat's desire to contend now provides the Thunder with the opportunity to swoop.
With Miami still interested in signing Chris Paul, the Thunder should demand the inclusion of Winslow in any trade package.
#2 Mo Bamba
Mo Bamba entered the NBA as a hugely exciting prospect. The young center had been a dominant force during his season with the Texas Longhorns, and his 7 ft 10 in wingspan surpassed Rudy Gobert as the largest in NBA history.
After speculation that he could be a top-three pick, Bamba was taken 6th overall by the Orlando Magic, but his rookie year was halted by the All-Star form of Nikola Vucevic.
Bamba finished his debut season averaging just 16.3 minutes per contest, and his chances of breaking into the Magic starting lineup look bleak after Vucevic signed a new long-term deal this summer. Nevertheless, Bamba is still just 21 and the New York native remains an exciting prospect that has the potential to become one of the most dominant bigs in the NBA.
With Steven Adams' future in doubt, and Nerlens Noel likely to be traded at some point this season, Bamba would have the opportunity to become a key player under Billy Donovan, and the Magic are unlikely to stand in his way.
#1 Devin Booker
Devin Booker signed a five-year, $158 million contract extension with Phoenix Suns last summer, although the franchise has continued to struggle. The Suns finished last season with a 19-63 record, and the addition of the exciting DeAndre Ayton had little impact on the team's fortunes.
Booker also enjoyed the best season of his career, averaging 26.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, and following an underwhelming offseason, it is difficult to see how the Suns can put Booker in a position to contend anytime soon.
The Thunder are not contenders themselves, although an array of draft picks puts the team in a position to sign Booker and at least one more star. At 22, Booker will also have the chance to grow alongside an increasingly talented young roster, and the Michigan native could quickly become the face of the franchise.
The price to land Booker will be steep, however, the Michigan native is the future superstar that the Thunder need to avoid falling into irrelevance.