After dropping back to back games, including a 120 to 106 loss to one of the worst teams in the league the Detroit Pistons, Oklahoma City Thunder fans are beginning to ramp up chatter about potential trade deadline moves and whether or not it should be a priority. If losing to the lowly Pistons was not enough, the Thunder followed that game up with another loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves who took control of first place in the western conference with the win. While the Thunder were never truly out of the game, you could tell from the jump if OKC was going to win this game they were going to have to play physical down low. Unfortunately, that is a weakness for this team with the current roster construction. That has been apparent all season, and could be detrimental to this teams success in the 2023-2024 NBA season and possibly even the future.
What Is This Young Thunder Team Lacking Going Into The Trade Deadline?
As we approach February 8th, 2024 and the NBA trade deadline, fans and media are beginning to speculate possible moves Oklahoma City could look to make. If you take a deeper dive into the makeup of this young Thunder team, it is easy to see Oklahoma City Thunder General Manager Sam Presti clearly has a type of player he is looking for. You will notice most of the players on the roster have great length, are high IQ basketball minds, and have the ability to use multiple skills throughout the flow of a game at a high level. This versatility allows the Thunder to experiment with many different lineup combinations, and put different players in certain situations they find beneficial to the team. With that being said, this team has a glaring hole. Asking a seven foot, 195 pound rookie to anchor the defense and control the boards is a tall task for anyone. Chet Holmgren has rose to the occasion averaging 16.7 points 7.5 rebounds and 2.7 assist on shooting percentages of 53% 37% from the field and beyond 3 point line. He is definitely a big part of the reason his team currently sits at 2nd in the Western Conference, fans have started to clamor for help on the inside. Currently only the Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers, and Washington Wizards average less rebounds per game than the Thunder. To make matters worse, OKC gives up almost 13 offensive rebounds per game which is second worst in the league. Holmgren has proven to be a player that can make even the best scorers alter their shot, and is an elite rim protector. Chet is the 4th leading blocker in the league currently averaging 2.6 blocks per game and the Thunder only allow 45 points per game in the paint. But who can do all this when Chet is off the floor?
Two Players Who Could Be Trade Targets For The Oklahoma City Thunder:
Isaiah Stewart PF Detroit Pistons:
It was rumored just over a month ago in December that Sam Presti and the Thunder staff had interest in Isaiah Stewart. James L. Edwards III published an article going over possible Detroit Pistons moves and mentioned the Thunder among other teams as possible suitors for the big man if he was to find a new home. Stewart, the fourth year player formerly with the Washington Huskies, signed a 4 year $60 million contract extension in the offseason. He is picking up right where he left off at the end of last season averaging 11 points, 6.8 rebounds, and .7 blocks per game. His six foot eight, 250 pound frame would slot in nicely next to Chet. Stewart started at center for Detroit in the beginning of his career until sliding over the the four after the Pistons selected Jalen Duren in the first round with the 13th pick of the 2022 NBA Draft. Detroit currently sits at 6-40 which is worst in the league at this time. One would imagine they would be sellers as we approach the deadline as they continue to rebuild their organization.
Nic Claxton Center Brooklyn Nets:
Nic Claxton is another name that has been floated around as a potential trade candidate. While I personally prefer with a bit more physical strength and mass, there is no doubt Claxton has the skillset that could help the thunder where they need it most. At nearly seven foot tall, lineups including Chet and the current Brooklyn Nets center would give opposing teams nightmares. Claxton is currently averaging a double double while logging over 29 minutes per game. He is averaging just over 12 points in that time just as he did last season, but is seeing a career high in rebounds. Of his 10.4 rebounds, 3.1 of them come on the offensive side which is top 10 in the NBA. His 2.2 blocks per game would allow the Thunder to keep an elite rim protector on the court at all times. Claxton is on an expiring deal with a base salary of $8,750,000. At just 24 years old, Claxton could also be a long term solution if he and the Thunder were able to take each others game to the next level.
Could Sam Presti Choose to Stand Pat?
With the way Oklahoma City Thunder General Manager Sam Presti has spoken in the media and his history of operations, it certainly should not surprise anyone if the team does not make a move as we pass the deadline. It feels like OKC has finally arrived as true contenders not only in the Western Conference, but also as contenders for the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy. Some NBA analyst such as Adrian Wojnarowski and Stephen A. Smith have recently praised Sam Presti for the job he has done building this roster. They even went as far to say the Thunder do not need to make a splashy move at the deadline. Rather, continue to grow and develop the organic talent they already have in the building. Adding a piece means someone would see a reduced role, and that could potentially cause other problems. Team chemistry seems to be maxed out if you follow these guys on and off the court. This team is playing some good basketball, and having a lot of fun doing it!
For More Great Basketball News…
If you enjoyed this article, follow me on Twitter at @DirtyDowns. To read more of our articles and keep up to date on the latest in basketball news, click here! Here is my previous article on Shai becoming an All-Star Starter.