Upgrades for the Oklahoma City Thunder During Free Agency

The Oklahoma City Thunder have added pressure to their offseason plans following the 2024 NBA Draft.

The Oklahoma City Thunder decided to draft Nikola Topic with the No. 12 pick and then decided to trade back into the first round for pick No. 26 selecting Weber State product Dillon Jones.

Then, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded back into the second round for pick No. 38 grabbing UC Santa Barbara product Ajay Mitchell.

Many believe that the players the Thunder drafted don’t address their biggest flaw – their frontcourt rotation. The Thunder made their first big move last week with the Alex Caruso-Josh Giddey trade swap.

While Oklahoma City didn’t address its few flaws during the NBA Draft, this was just the first step of the NBA Offseason. The Thunder now shift their focus to free agency and the trade market, where Oklahoma City needs to make moves to upgrade their roster.

The decisions during Draft Night are understandable but the Thunder have now put pressure on themselves to make a high-impact move during free agency by not addressing their needs during the draft.

The Thunder are now in Championship contention mode. With nearly $30 million in cap space – upgrading their roster will be the Thunder’s main priority. Here are three plausible moves that would be upgrades for the Thunder.

Looking at Potential Free Agent Upgrades for the Thunder

Signing Isaiah Hartenstein

The New York Knicks made a blockbuster deal with the Brooklyn Nets by sending a huge amount of draft capital for Mikal Bridges.

The Knicks also retained OG Anunoby which makes them true title contenders. This likely means the departure of Hartenstein unless he takes a significant payout to resign with the Knicks. He’s likely to receive upwards of $20 million annually.

In 75 games last season, Hartenstein averaged 7.8 points on 64.4% shooting, 8.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks. When Mitchell Robinson went down, he slid into the starting lineup and was tremendous for the Knicks.

If Hartenstein leaves, one of the most popular destinations to land him is the Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC could offer the veteran big a lofty, two-year deal since the Thunder nearly have $30 million in cap space.

As the Thunder continues to shape up their identity and play style, it’s becoming more unlikely that OKC will spend over $20 million for a traditional backup big. Although he is a traditional big, he’d be a great backup center who provides much-needed size and help on the boards. He also provides playmaking in the short roll and DHO. The Thunder lacked size and physicality on the frontcourt last season. Hartenstein immediately fixes that issue.

A short-term deal fits right into the Thunder’s payroll as the predicted max extensions of Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams won’t kick in until the 2026-27 season which gives the Thunder a two-year window of flexible cap space.

Signing Moritz Wagner

Ahead of NBA free agency, the Orlando Magic have declined big Mo Wagner’s $8 million team option, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

It’s a possibility that the Magic, who have significant cap space available this offseason, are hoping to clear some more room to add even more free-agent talent. Orlando has been linked to Paul George, Klay Thompson, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Wagner played a key role for the Magic, averaging 10.9 points and 4.3 rebounds in 80 games for Orlando.

The Thunder have an identity and are committed to playing a 5-Out offense. Wagner would provide much-needed size at the backup big position at a reasonable cost and fits right into the Thunder system due to his ability to space the floor, attack closeouts, and be effective in the short roll and DHOs.

With nearly $30 million in cap space, it’s more likely that the Thunder won’t spend over $20 million for a backup big — $12-$15 million could be enough for the Thunder to pry Wagner away from Orlando especially if they land one of Paul George, Klay Thompson, or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Sign and Trade for Patrick Williams

Ahead of NBA free agency, Patrick Williams is a restricted free agent and is reportedly commanding between $18-$20 million annually. Per The Athletic, earlier this offseason the Thunder had an interest in Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams. OKC can either sign him to an offer sheet and hope Chicago doesn’t match or complete a sign-and-trade.

Williams would be an interesting long-term fit for the Thunder. Williams, depending on who or what the Thunder would give up in a sign-and-trade, would slide right in and his ability to shoot and attack closeouts provides much-needed size and defense at the forward position. Williams would fill in a much-needed role and spot at the starting power forward position.

The biggest concern is that injuries have plagued Williams — missing the better parts of two of his four seasons — but when healthy he’s been a productive player. In 43 games, Williams averaged 10 points and 3.9 rebounds on 39.9% from 3 on 3.4 attempts.

If the interest is genuine and if the Thunder could ploy Williams from Chicago then a change of scenery could be very beneficial and OKC could grab their starting four as there’s a lot of untapped two-way potential in Williams. If OKC could bring out his potential, then it could end up being a massive upgrade.

Trade for Brook Lopez

According to NBA Insider Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer, the Milwaukee Bucks are open and could trade Brook Lopez.

Lopez is in the final year of his contract — $23 million next season.

A trade proposal that the Thunder could offer to the Bucks — Aaron Wiggins (which the Thunder have declined his team option and is expected re-sign to a mid-sized contract for $8-15 million annually) per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Kenrich Williams (who has three-years – $20 million remaining), and draft compensation for Brook Lopez.

In 79 games last season, Lopez averaged 12.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game, while shooting 48.5% from the field, 36.6% from deep on 5.1 attempts a game, and 82.1% from the free-throw line.

The Thunder are committed to playing a 5-Out offense. Lopez would provide much-needed size and it would be more beneficial for him to have a reduced role at this stage of his career which would be the backup big position for the Thunder. Lopez would be a tremendous backup for the Thunder with his ability to space the floor, attack closeouts, and protect the rim.

This trade could be beneficial for both teams as the Bucks are open to reshaping their roster and would be adding much-needed wing depth and draft compensation in Aaron Wiggins, Kenrich Williams, and a 2025 Philadelphia first-round pick (top-six protected). While the Thunder would be adding much-needed size in Brook Lopez. 

Main Image: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

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