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Ranking OKC Thunder's 5 most valuable draft assets ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season

General Manager of the Oklahoma City Thuder, Sam Presti
General Manager of the Oklahoma City Thuder, Sam Presti
Brenden Nunes
ANALYST

Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder own 11 future first-round NBA draft picks, not including their own. The Thunder making all of those selections seems extremely unlikely, but said draft picks are prime trade assets as well.

We saw the Boston Celtics mentioned in trade talks for years before their haul from the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett trade to the Brooklyn Nets finally concluded. Expect similar conversations to be had with the Oklahoma City Thunder over the next half decade.

2021 NBA Draft: Oklahoma City Thunder's historic rebuild begins with Australia's Josh Giddey - Sporting News AU dlvr.it/S5SSmY

Some of the picks are likely to be late firsts, others are swaps that aren't projected to be used, but a select few could carry significant value. Here's how I would rank their top-5 most valuable trade assets, not including the Oklahoma City Thunder's own picks, which clearly would top this list.

Oklahoma City Thunder's best future NBA Draft pick options


#5 - Better of HOU/LAC 2025 1st

Oklahoma City Thunder v Houston Rockets - Game Seven
Oklahoma City Thunder v Houston Rockets - Game Seven

Obtained in the trade that sent franchise icon Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets, this pick has enough flexibility and time before conveying that the Oklahoma City Thunder could end up lucky.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have the right to the better of Houston's or the Clippers' first-rounder in 2025. If the Rockets' selection falls inside the top-10, then the Thunder are left with no choice but to take the Los Angeles' first.

Who knows what will happen within the next four years. As we have all seen in recent years, the NBA changes at a rapid pace. On their current trajectory, the Rockets should be play-in contenders come 2025 led by Jalen Green and other future lottery talents.

The Clippers, on the other hand, have both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on player options entering the 2024-25 season. If either or both decide to opt out, the Clippers could go into a rebuild heading into the same season that will affect the outcome of this draft pick.

Uncertainty is unavoidable when dealing with that far into the future, but that is part of the intrigue with this asset.


#4 - LAC 2022 1st

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Clippers
Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Clippers

With Kawhi Leonard sidelined for most of next season after partially tearing his ACL in the playoffs, the Clippers could experience a down season. This is far from a guarantee with the likes of Paul George, Marcus Morris and now Eric Bledsoe still on the roster.

Kawhi Leonard injury update: Clippers owner Steve Ballmer calls midseason return for star forward 'possible' cbssports.com/nba/news/kawhi…

The Western Conference is as competitive as ever though, and the Clippers finished five games ahead of the 2020-21 play-in tournament. Paul George has a history of injury, and him going down at the wrong time could spell disaster for this team next year.

Unprotected is the key word with this pick. Imagine an outcome where the Clippers are defeated in the play-in tournament, leaving the Thunder holding their breath for a roughly one percent outcome of jumping into the top-4. Unlikely, but with no Kawhi for most of the season, it is within the realm of possibilities.

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Edited by Rohit Mishra
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