Thunder Ideal offseason

Oklahoma City Thunder Ideal Offseason: 3 Moves to Improve Their Roster

Coming into the season, the Oklahoma City Thunder were projected to be in the play-in/playoffs mix. Oklahoma City also entered the season with 44.5 win total line and they exceeded expectations by finishing 57-25 (No. 1 in the West). The Thunder became the youngest team in NBA history to earn the No. 1 seed as well as winning a playoff series.

Ultimately, the Thunder season ended with them losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the second round. This playoff loss provided necessary data for the Thunder. General Manager Sam Presti understands the blueprint heading into the offseason. Presti can go in a number of directions with roughly $33 million in cap space plus a treasure chest of future draft capital.

General Manager Sam Presti had his end of the season press conference. Based off what he iterated during his press conference this will be an interesting offseason.

I provide my ideal moves and upgrades for the Thunder. I believe the following offseason plan would improve the franchise and vault Thunder into true contenders.

Oklahoma City Thunder Ideal Offseason: 3 Moves to Improve Their Roster


Finding a True Power Forward/Big Wing to Replace Josh Giddey in the Starting Lineup

Josh Giddey is a good passer and has great court vision, which gives him value as a distributor. However, his flaws are glaring at the moment and are currently detrimental to OKC’s championship philosophies.

Giddey shot 34 percent from three on the season which is an improvement from his first two seasons but when you look deeper, he only shot 35 percent on wide open threes during the regular season, and that plummeted to an abmiso 20 percent against Dallas. Opposing teams were putting their center on him and having the big sag and crowd the paint, which closed driving lanes for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams. It also allowed opponents to defend Chet Holmgren with a bigger forward and neutralize his mobility and off-the-dribble advantage over opposing bigs. In other words, Giddey’s poor shooting and non-existent off-ball gravity made things more difficult for OKC’s “Big Three”.

Defensively, his lateral quickness and lack of length were an issue as ball-handlers often blew past him causing OKC defense to be in constant rotation and help-mode. Giddey’s flaws were only heightened in the Thunder’s switch-heavy, chaos-versatile-driven defensive scheme.

Essentially, he wasn’t put in a position to succeed this season. He was not prepared to assume the role OKC needed based on his strengths and weaknesses. There’s no doubt in my mind that the 21-year-old turns into a good NBA player, but it’s currently hard to envision him reaching his full potential on this specific team. I believe it would be best for the Thunder to move on from Josh Giddey and for him to have a fresh start elsewhere in order to maximize his play-style. This way, the Thunder could slide Jalen Williams to his more natural small forward/wing position, and find a starting power forward/bigger wing that fits.

In my opinion, Lauri Markkanen is the ideal trade target. He’s a perfect fit for the Thunder as he shoots it very well, rebounds well, and does not need the ball to be highly effective. Unfortunately, the Utah Jazz appear to have an unreasonable price tag on him which makes him pretty much untouchable in negotiations. With Markkanen’s name pretty much off the board, the Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija becomes the top realistic option for OKC.

Thunder Receive:
• Deni Avdija

Wizards Receive:
• Josh Giddey
Ousmane Dieng
• 2025 1st-round pick via 76ers (top-6 protected)
• 2026 2nd-round pick via Thunder

Although Avdija is not a star, he would be an elite role player and perfect fit for the Thunder. He stands at 6’9 and can play both forward positions which is huge.

Offensively, he shot 37 percent from three on the season, shot 41 percent on catch-and-shoot threes and was in the 83rd percentile in spot-up shooting.

The Thunder would be adding a solid secondary playmaker, as he would be a valuable connective passer who moves the ball and can do more than making the simple read, which is a necessity in their offense.

On the defensive end, Avdija is a good and smart team defender who provides defensive versatility and would be the ideal player in defending bigger wings/forwards which would make him vital for the Thunder’s defense.

Avdija is also a good rebounding forward as he averaged 7.2 rebounds per game this season. Considering OKC’s rebounding deficiencies, he fills another check mark in terms of being a perfect fit for the Thunder.

Overall, Avdija’s complementary all-around skill set makes him a tantalizing target for the Thunder. The 23-year-old is also on a cheap, descending contract that will see him earn $15.6M, $14.3M, $13.1M and $11.8M per year over the next four seasons, so he won’t be expensive once the Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren extensions begin.

As for why Washington accepts this deal, they are a franchise in need of talent and assets. Losing Avdija certainly hurts, however, he’s more of a complementary piece that does not have huge upside. This is where it’s worth rolling the dice on Josh Giddey and Ousmane Dieng who are talented former lottery picks. For accepting the risk, Washington would receive a first rounder in a promising 2025 draft along with a second rounder in 2026. This allows Giddey to receive primary ball-handling reps and Dieng to receive consistent NBA reps in a rebuilding situation.

Add a Backup Center

Chet Holmgren played every single game this season. Let me repeat that he played all regular season and playoff games this season. The plus-minus difference when Holmgren was on and off the court was evident, especially in the Dallas series as they couldn’t stay afloat during the non-Holmgren minutes and played a big factor as to why the Thunder lost the series. Jaylin Williams provides passing and has made strides as a shooter, but not being the most athletic and his inability to rebound and protect the rim at a high level compromises his value. At 6’9, Jaylin Williams is undersized at the big position and not being the most athletic big currently limits his upside, especially with what the Thunder needs out of the backup big position.

I know teams typically don’t spend big on a backup center, however, the Thunder are in a prime position to do this without being compromised.

New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein sits among the top of the targets list. Not a lot of centers battle on the boards like Hartenstein, his motor on the glass and the toughness he would bring will add immense value for the Thunder.

The 26-year-old big is a disruptive rim protector despite not being an elite shot-blocker.

In addition to rebounding and rim protection, Hartenstein is an effective passer on short rolls and dribble handoffs. The Thunder system requires their players to have the ability to pass, dribble, and shoot. Hartenstein playmaking and the ability to be effective in dribble handoffs and make advance reads fits the Thunder mode.

Hartenstein lacks a jumper outside the paint, which is not ideal. However, his strengths are too important for the Thunder to pass up. His flaw is not a back breaker for OKC.

Hartenstein will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. There is a strong desire for him to resign with the Knicks. However, the maximum New York can offer is a four-year, $72 million deal. This is where Presti can swoop up and grab him. A two-year deal paying him $44 million would likely be enough to lure him away from the Knicks.

Yes it would be an overpay but OKC has to clearly beat the Knicks offer in order for him to leave. The Thunder have plenty of cap space with their core players on rookie contracts, so the time to take advantage of their cap space is now.

The reason for the two-year deal? It expires when Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren extensions begins, so the Thunder take back financial flexibility to reshape the roster around three max contracts. On the other side, Hartenstein would play for a championship contender for two seasons with the opportunity to win a championship. Then, he becomes a free agent during his prime when teams can offer more money due to the increased salary cap.

This two-year deal with OKC offers more financial upside than locking himself into a long-term contract with New York.

Filling Out the Bench

In this scenario, despite trading for Avdija and signing Hartenstein, the Thunder would still need more forward depth. This is where the 12th pick plus the Thunder would have a little under $10 million in cap space remaining, if they want to round out the end of the roster.

There’s three realistic draft options that I would love for the Thunder at the No. 12 pick (in order) which are forwards in Cody Williams and Tyler Smith. Drafting forward Cody Williams would be great for the Thunder and not because he’s the younger brother of Jalen Williams but because he fits the pass, dribble, and shoot 5-Out system. The Colorado forward stands 6’8 and shot 41.5% from three during his freshman season. He is a two-way wing with connective passing tools. He moves off the ball and doesn’t need the ball to add offensive value, which will be the case for the majority of his NBA minutes to start his career.

Cody Williams brings defensive versatility who has potential to be a lockdown isolation defender. He is a player who understands defensive rotations and will immediately be a smart, impactful team defender. Which will fit right in with OKC defensive identity.

Based on his tools and upside, Williams could easily end up as a Top-10 pick in the draft. However, the main question surrounding the Thunder will be getting win-now talent. Cody Williams will take time to develop and regarding the Thunder rebuild that’s fine with them because they will continue to build and develop organically. It’s also fine with the Thunder because they will get four cheap years of immediate, quality backup wing/forward play.

Finally, signing Justin Holiday to a one-year, $5 million contract would complete the depth chart. He provides size at the wing position at 6’6 and he’s a career 36.5 percent three-point shooter. He’s also a solid defender and you can never have too many solid wing defenders.

Final Roster Outlook

Overall, OKC’s rotation would be the following after all of these moves:
• Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, Jalen Williams, Deni Avdija, Chet Holmgren
• Cason Wallace, Isaiah Joe, Aaron Wiggins, Cody Williams, Isaiah Hartenstein
• Kenrich Williams, Jaylin Williams, Justin Holiday, Lindy Waters III

This would be a roster filled with two-way players with not a lot of flaws. This roster possess size, length, and array of perimeter defenders, playmaking, and improve scoring in order to prepare them more for the playoffs. This group would have the next two years to win a championship before becoming an expensive roster. Presti has a treasure chest of picks to help round out the roster outside of their “Big Three” with financially cheap role players and reset the cycle.

This version of the Thunder would make this true championship contenders.

Main Image: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

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