The Oklahoma City Thunder have 34 draft picks till 2027. A great start for a team in a rebuild, but the Thunder are not just a team with a boatload of draft picks. That would be the Houston Rockets. The OKC Thunder have profited from a random playoff run last year, selling its two stars in 2019, and good luck.
Since 2007, the Thunder have had at least one superstar on their team. Starting with the golden era of Harden, KD, and Westbrook. This was a team consisting of three future superstars. With James Harden coming off the bench, still developing into the iso-star we see today. The Thunder made it to the Finals in 2012 and losing to the Lebron led Heat in 5 games, this would be the farthest and Thunder team has gotten to a chip. After a disappointing end to 2012 the Thunder shipped Harden off to Houston, and started to build their team around KD and Westbrook. During this period of KD and Westbrook, it seemed like the Thunder were always in the discussion as a championship squad but were never able to take that final step. After a devastating, 7 game, loss to the up and coming Golden State Warriors in the 2015 Western Conference Finals we saw these two stars finally break up. KD would go on to join the team that just beat the Thunder, the Warriors, and finally achieve the goal he was never able to achieve with the Warriors. After Durant’s departure the Thunder transitioned to triple-double Westbrook. The team had to move on from the idea of winning a championship, now that KD had left the Thunder was a guaranteed first/second round exit. As many role players they added, Westbrook was never going to carry them to a title(he did win MVP though). The Thunder had to make a radical change if they wanted to get back in the championship convo and they did just that in 2017. Trading for Paul George signaled that the Thunder were trying to build something, but after two tough losses in 2018 and 19 there seemed to be a sense of ending. Even though George had signed a new contract in 2018, he soon wanted out of OKC after their second first round exit to Damian Lillard. Sending Paul George to the Clippers for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Russell Westbrook to the Rockets for Chris Paul, the Thunder had an entirely new team. Projected to be one of the worst teams in 2020, the Thunder made a surprise playoff run sending their first round matchup against the Rockets to 7 games. The Thunder have had some of the biggest names in the current NBA, and yet the biggest thing that stands out is their surplus of talent and lack of a championship.
The OKC Thunder are 13th in the West and have a 20-38 record, definitely not competing for a playoff spot like last year. While this year might show no progress in terms of record, the player development happening is crazy. The biggest development is Gilgeous-Alexander, who is looking like one of the best young point guards in the game. With a knack for getting to the basket, SGA has been finding open shooters and finishing at the basket. While he still has a lot of development still left, Gilgeous-Alexander is only 22, the early signs point to a superstar in the making.
As we can see from this video clip, SGA is smooth around the rim. He also has a solid mid-range game and three point shot. Shai is the centerpiece of this Thunder rebuild, but there are some other developing pieces. This includes Lu Dort who is best known for locking up James Harden, one of the best scorers ever, in the 2020 playoffs. Now that Dort is seeing more playing time, he is averaging 13 ppg and knocking down 35% from three. He has also gone on a recent tear scoring 25+ in his last three games and dropping 42 on the Utah Jazz. Dort can become a 3-D wing, who can score in big amounts when needed. One of the bigger surprises the past months have been Aleksej Pokusevski. Pokusevski is a raw player, who is a rookie and still developing. He has had multiple 20+ point games, but has also seen dips in production scoring only 8 points in 30 minutes. This is all part of the development process, and the Thunder should be glad that Pokusevski has already shown this much in his rookie year. These are only three of the biggest young names on the Thunder, and there is still so much potential for a team built on such young talent.
What a rebuild is all about, and what the Thunder are building towards. As said at the beginning, the Thunder have 34 draft picks till 2027, and that will be a major part of their future. As said in the previous segment, their young guys already on their roster are also part of the long term future. With the young talent already on the roster, and the boatload of draft picks the Thunder are arguably the team best setup for the next 20 years. There are some teams that have huge amounts of draft picks, Rockets, or young talent, Grizzlies, but no one has both of those.
Top Image: AP Images/Sue Ogrocki