3 Pivotal Moments During The OKC Thunder Rebuild

Beginning their rebuild during the 2020-2021 season, the OKC Thunder faced harsh criticism about the way they were going about it, calling them the “Black Eye” of the NBA. Now, three seasons later, the OKC Thunder are back in the playoffs.

The OKC Thunder have demonstrated the value of patience which has led to a successful rebuild. They’ve set themselves up to potentially be the team of the latter half of the 2020s.

OKC Thunder GM Sam Presti has eluded to staying patient and has put an emphasis on not taking shortcuts, making quick fixes, nor reach out for instant gratification. Sam Presti’s ultimate goal during the rebuilding process is to build a team that will inspire each and enjoy the game, success, and togetherness.

3 Pivotal Moments During the OKC Thunder Rebuild

Trading for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

It was the trade that shook the NBA during the summer of 2019 and what catapulted OKC’s rebuild.

It was Paul George going to the Los Angeles Clippers, and, in return, the Oklahoma City Thunder received Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, five first-round picks, and two pick swaps.

At the time, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was a promising talent, as he received high praise from Doc Rivers, Lou Williams, and Patrick Beverly. However, not a lot of people believed he would become the player that he is now.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the face of the franchise and is the main reason why the Oklahoma City Thunder are this good, this soon.

This blockbuster trade was the beginning of OKC accumulating a huge amount of draft capital. At one point, the Thunder owned 35 draft picks over a seven-year span, including 15 in the first round.

Trade Results:

Los Angeles Clippers received:

  • Paul George

Oklahoma City Thunder received:

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
  • Danilo Gallinari
  • Miami Heat’s 2021 unprotected first-rounder (Tre Mann taken at No. 18)
  • Clippers’ 2022 unprotected first-rounder (Jalen Williams taken at No. 12)
  • Right to 2023 first-round swap with Clippers (not conveyed)
  • Clippers’ 2024 unprotected first-rounder (traded to Dallas for a 2028 first-round swap)
  • Heat’s 2025 protected first-rounder for 1-14 (unprotected for 2026)
  • Right to 2025 first-round swap with Clippers
  • Clippers’ 2026 unprotected first-rounder

The Thunder made one of the best trades in recent memory receiving a star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a rising star in Jalen Williams, who are two of OKC’s core pieces.

2022 Draft Class

The 2022 draft class is looking like a major success for the OKC Thunder. With four total picks (three being lottery picks), two seem to be home run picks in Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams, the third is a wildcard in Ousmane Dieng, who’s a young project player with a very high upside, and the fourth is Jaylin Williams who is an impactful role player. This was an absolute haul and game-changing, as this draft class has absolutely changed the outlook of their rebuild and the direction of their franchise.

In OKCs two-year rebuild, the team picked in the lottery both years. In 2021, the Thunder unfortunately had bad luck. OKC had a very high probability of securing two top-five picks with their own plus Houston’s but ended up only receiving the No. 6 pick because of the unfortunate bounce of the ping-pong balls.

However, in 2022, luck was on OKC’s side. OKC ended up with the No. 2 pick, and all of the painful agony of losing was worth it considering how good and impactful Chet Holmgren has already been for OKC.

Chet Holmgren has been the perfect fit for OKC, as the Thunder desperately needed a big man for quite a while. Holmgren provides everything that OKC has been missing for quite some time, with his rim protection, floor spacing – as a shooter and lob threat, and his ability to handle the ball at his size which makes him a unicorn type of player.

Holmgren was a top prospect in the draft and was projected to go either one or two, it was easy to see the fit in OKC. However, OKC got the steal of the draft at No. 12, which was game-changing for the 2022 draft.

Jalen Williams is a rising star who continues to get better as each game passes by. His positional versatility and efficiency are crucial for OKCs success. He has future All-Star written all over him.

One thing is certain, the 2022 Draft Class changed the trajectory of Oklahoma City’s franchise.

Hiring Mark Daigneault

After the NBA Bubble Season, Mark Daigneault was hired to be the next coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Many thought Daigneault would only be there for the rebuilding phase, as he was the youngest head coach in the NBA and was set to be tasked with ensuring the development of the OKC rebuild.

OKC GM Sam Presti had high praise and believed that Daigneault was a perfect fit for this iteration of the Thunder.

Not only has Mark Daigneault helped stabilize a culture in OKC, but he has also implemented a system, where they play positionless basketball, and all five players on the court can pass, dribble, and shoot. Mark Daigneault allows his players to play freely. His ability to relate to both NBA players and NBA organizations is one of his greatest skills.

Mark Daigneault is very innovative, open-minded, and unconventional in terms of his offensive and defensive schemes. Known for having a great mind and for identifying and developing talent, he has done a great job throughout their rebuild.

Mark Daigneault has proven he’s more than just a developmental coach best suited to lead a rebuilding team. The GM Sam Presti and the players have bought into the Daigneault system and the culture and chemistry in OKC are among the league’s best in large part due to Daigneault. Mark Daigneault is absolutely the coach of the future in OKC as he possesses the perfect balance of great on-the-court coaching, along with being an even better person and mentor off the court, Mark Daigneault is building a great team in OKC.

Main Image: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

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