2022 NBA Offseason Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder

It may seem that the Thunder have been mired in the rebuilding process forever, but it’s been less than two years since the Chris PaulThe run version of the team entered the bubble playoffs as the No. 5 seed. Since then, of course, Oklahoma City hasn’t come close to sniffing the playoffs and shown little desire to try. , closing a streak of players due to injury after the All-Star hiatus in 2021 and 2022.

Still, the Thunder haven’t been the worst team in the NBA over the past two years, and they’ve uncovered some potential gems during that time. Last year’s 6th overall pick, Josh Giddeylooks like the closest thing to a home run so far, but OKC has other promising young players under contract and has done well to capitalize on a player like Kenrich Williamsa touch in the steven adams sign and trade two offseasons ago.

Given how many draft picks the Thunder have racked up and how few games they’ve won since exiting the 2020 bubble, some fans will be eager to see them start pushing their chips mid-table this summer. But Sam Prestiwho has no worries about his job security, won’t be in a hurry and seems content to spend at least another year in the lottery, focused on player development, before starting to press a bit more on the accelerator.


Thunder’s off-season plan:

The Thunder will be a team to watch closely before and during the draft, as they still have a ton of unused caps for the 2021/22 league year. This cap space will essentially disappear in early July when the new league year begins and Shai Gilgeous-AlexanderThe maximum salary extension is hitting the team’s books, but it will be available in June and could be useful in accommodating a salary swap.

Of course, having the Thunder again loaded with valuable draft picks will also make them one of the most intriguing teams in the first half of the offseason. Oklahoma City controls four of the top 34 picks of 2022 and will have two lottery selections.

The Thunder didn’t have much luck in the lottery a year ago, dropping from fourth in the lottery standings to sixth in the draft itself. But with their own pick and the Clippers’ pick in this year’s lottery, their chances of landing the first overall pick are as good as anyone’s, and they’ll have a better chance than any other team of ending up in the four first. . This bodes well, given that some experts on the project believe there is a downside after the consensus of the top four prospects (Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, Paolo Bancheroand Jaden Ivey).

The 15 Thunder players who finished the season on standard deals remain under contract for next season, so the front office will technically have no free agent decisions to make. But the team will still have to make several hold or cut calls to players who have unsecured squad options or salaries. Some of these decisions will be simple – Williams and Luguentz Dortboth earning $2 million or less, obviously won’t be cut – but I certainly wouldn’t expect everyone to be back.

Presti could also be active in the trade market, if only to help make room for incoming recruits. Derrick’s favors is the most obvious trade candidate on the list, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see some young players bought in if they aren’t seen as long-term cornerstones. Darius Bazley and Ty Jeromefor example, both are entering contract years and could be trade candidates if OKC is unwilling to lock them in with extensions.

Among the players eligible for the Thunder extension, Dort and Williams are the best candidates to receive new offers. The team would be able to offer either player a four-year extension worth up to around $60 million.

If the Thunder are concerned about their ability to extend Dort, they have the option of denying his team option for 2022/23 in order to make him a restricted free agent. This would make him more expensive in the short term, but eliminate the possibility of him going to unrestricted free agency in 2023. In this scenario, Oklahoma City would also be able to go beyond the 60 million limit. dollars over four years. which would apply to an extension.


Situation of the salary cap

Note: Our salary caps are based on league numbers. last screening ($122 million) for 2022/23.

Guaranteed salary

Player options

Team options

Salary not guaranteed

Restricted Free Agents

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • 4th overall pick ($7,901,280) 5
  • 12th overall pick ($4,283,400) 6
  • Overall Pick #30 ($2,164,560)
  • Overall Pick #34 (No Ceiling Hold)
  • Total: $14,349,240

Players eligible for the expansion

Note: These are players who are already eligible for an extension or who will become so before the start of the 2022/23 season.

  • Darius Bazley (beginner scale)
  • Luguentz Dort (veteran) 7
  • Derrick’s favors (veteran) 7
  • Ty Jerome (beginner scale)
  • Theo Maledon (veteran)
  • Isaiah Roby (veteran) 7
  • Kenrich Williams (veteran)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Caps

Out of Season Ceiling Outlook

The Thunder currently only have about $84 million in guaranteed money on their books for next season, but after considering the options most likely to be picked and the cap is for three first-round picks. round, that number jumps to around $115 million. This means the Thunder will almost certainly operate as an over-the-cap team once free agency opens.

It’s possible that Oklahoma City will lose some pay in trades and try to gain some cap space, but it would take a specific goal for that cap space. The Thunder showed in 2021/22 while carrying just $78 million in guaranteed money and always operated “above” the ceiling for much of the season that they will not waive exceptions and caps and will not go under the cap just for the sake of it.

Ceiling exceptions available

  • Intermediate level exception: $10,349,000 9
  • Half-yearly exception: $4,050,000 9

Footnotes

  1. Gilgeous-Alexander’s salary will be 25% of the salary cap. If the cap ends up above or below $122 million, this figure will be adjusted up or down.
  2. Roby’s salary will remain unsecured until July 3 even if his option is exercised.
  3. Williams’ salary will become fully guaranteed after the last day of the offseason (mid-October).
  4. Krejci’s salary will become fully guaranteed after June 30.
  5. This choice depends on the results of the lottery. He could land anywhere between No. 1 and No. 8. The Thunder Lottery Odds can be viewed here.
  6. This choice depends on the results of the lottery. He could land anywhere between #1 and #4 or between #12 and #14.
  7. Dort, Favors and Roby would only be eligible if their options were exercised.
  8. The cap for these players remains on the Thunder’s books from previous seasons as they were not waived. They cannot be used in a sign-and-trade agreement.
  9. These are projected values.

Information on the salary and the ceiling of Basketball insiders and RealGM was used in the creation of this post.

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