With the draft a week and some change away, and the 25th pick, OKC Thunder fans weren’t expecting much of an exciting evening.
Sure the possibility of trading away players like Chris Paul, Dennis Schröder, or even Steven Adams loomed; but the range of outcomes in terms of a return had such a wide variance, you could do a tank in it (no pun intended).
Until today, that is.
Sam Amico tweeted out the news that a number of teams were interesting in trading up to the #1 pick to acquire LaMelo Ball including the Bulls, Pistons, and to everyone’s shock the Thunder.
This of course caused a variety of emotions to stir in Thunder fans hearts, including hype, hilarity, and hysteria.
When it comes to making big trades, a co host for my podcast Topic: Thunder always said, “Get (the big name) here and worry about the fit later.”
So in part one of my two part series on #LaMelOKC, I am going to explore what it would take to for OKC to even acquire the #1 pick from the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first place.
But I, as a biased OKC fan, will not be alone. Joining me will be a duo of OTH’s own Wolves writers Zach and Tyler.
Lets get it bah mitzvah poppin.
Dylan: So guys, you have the #1 pick in this years draft. Obviously there is talk that you want to move it, but first of all if you were to keep it, who would you want the Wolves to select?
Zach: Personally I’d rather trade the pick, but if I were to make a selection it would definitely be Anthony Edwards. There’s been signs of him having no effort and having no work ethic, but he’s the best fit for the Wolves. Especially with the legal issues surrounding Malik Beasley. We need a SG, and having LaMelo Ball would create so many more problems in my opinion due to DeAngelo Russell. I wouldn’t want 2 PG’s to be honest.
Tyler: I’m looking to trade the pick as my first option but if I had to choose somebody, I would choose Anthony Edwards. I feel like we’re not going to re-sign Beasley with the recent legal issues he’s been having, so we’re going to need a starting SG moving forward and Edwards fits that role perfectly. I’d rather have him over guys like LaMelo because he’s a better defender and then we wouldn’t have to move DLo who’s a little undersized in my opinion to SG. I wouldn’t want James Wiseman either because it wouldn’t make sense to take a C if we already have Karl Anthony Towns.
Dylan: All of that is fair. Personally, Edwards makes me more nervous than a guy like LaMelo or even Wiseman, but you all are in a unique position in comparison to other teams drafting #1. You have two young All-Stars in DLo and KAT, so fit matters a little bit more to you guys as opposed to former top pick selectors. Which makes Edwards the safe pick.
You both mentioned that you would like to move on from the pick, which doesn’t happen very often. What’s different about this years #1 pick, as opposed to years past?
Tyler: I feel like it’s because there’s no clear cut #1 this year, unlike say for example last year where everybody wanted Zion.
Zach: Yeah, this years draft class just isn’t that good.
Dylan: Let’s talk about that for a little bit. You both seem ok with trading away the pick, what are you hoping to get back in terms of a return?
Zach: Defense, 100%.
Tyler: Yeah probably a 3 and D player, maybe a young guy.
Zach: I think we have enough shooting, I really want to focus on defense.
Dylan: Alright, interesting stance there. I never thought I would see someone turn down shooting in today’s NBA, but I digress!
Lets get into the bones of this article here; I’m gonna play the role of the Thunder GM, while you guys will operate as the Timberwolves front office. With that being said, assuming Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is off the table (because Shai Gilgeous-Alexander IS off the table) are there any pieces on the Thunder that you think would help benefit your team in the short term, or long term?
Zach: Shooting is a necessity. I wouldn’t turn it down, but in this case I would only prefer to have shooting if the player has defense along with it. Like Jrue Holiday, Jae Crowder, etc.
Our defense is horrible; there’s a reason we were 19-45!
But if we could get ANYONE on the Thunder, excluding SGA, I would want to get Lu Dort.
Tyler: I think the picks would really be the only benefit to us; other than Dort like Zach said, or Darius Bazley.
Zach: I’m not really all that interested in picks, I want to make a move that helps us win now. Like Rosas said, he wants a win now player and that’s what I want to acquire the most. Either trade back and get someone like Isaac Okoro/Devin Vassel, or trade for a win now player such as Simmons, Booker, Etc.
Tyler: Well yeah, I’m saying the picks would help sweeten the deal. I’m not trading #1 for Dort straight up!
Dylan: Honestly, I don’t think Dort helps you in the short term. He is still growing and developing his game. Same with Bazley too. They both have shown flashes, but they’re both also very raw. If you are trying to win now, do any of the vets on the team intrigue you?
Tyler: Steven Adams does. Danilo Gallinari would as well. The issue is, we already have KAT which means we don’t really need Adams. Gallinari a free agent if I recall correctly. And we have DLo so it doesn’t make sense to trade for CP3 either.
Dylan: I’ve heard a lot of people say the Wolves are sold that they want to play KAT at C and not PF so if that’s the case then Adams doesn’t work there. However, if you were looking for a high level defender with a strong basketball IQ, and a great locker room presence; then Steven Adams makes a lot of sense there.
Gallo definitely gives you spacing due to his shooting/scoring capabilities and due to our relationship with him; many believe he would agree to a sign and trade.
While I understand your stance on CP3 and DLo I have to disagree. OKC flourished this season running a 3 guard lineup with none other than Paul running the show. While it may be a bit unorthodox, both Paul and DLo’s offensive versatility at the PG position makes it possible to recreate that magic. In terms of winning, there are few players available in the open market or via trade that will help not only winning on the court; but establishing a winning culture than Chris Paul.
Tyler: True, he also is a great locker room veteran. He is a strong defender as a guard. His passing ability is elite, he’s routinely able to thread the needle like no other which would benefit this team a lot with all the backdoor cuts and drive and kicks to the 3 point line we do in our system.
Zach: Chris Paul is great, but you have to consider a few things here. Salary, depth, and rotations comes to mind. CP3 has such an enormous contract over the next few years, and really eats in to playing time that I think is essential to the young’s guys development, including guys like Jarrett Culver and Jordan McLaughlin.
Dylan: Ok, let’s operate off that if it’s cool with you Tyler. I understand that adding Chris Paul is a financial commitment, and there is some flexibility with Gallo. So say we did a sign a trade with Gallo, and in exchange we took back James Johnson. He isn’t in your future plans, correct?
Tyler: I mean, probably not.
Dylan: So let’s say we use that as the framework. Sign and trade for Gallo, we get back JJ. How many picks are you realistically expecting back?
Tyler: I would probably ask for 2. I know the Thunder are in rebuild mode and they acquired a lot of picks last year by trading Paul George to the Clippers. So if I’m trading them the 1st pick, I would want a piece of that as well as Gallo.
Zach: I completely agree with what Tyler said.
Dylan: Ok so let’s say you guys get back this years Denver pick that we own, which is 25. What future pick that we have would it take to get the deal done?
Tyler: I would probably ask for OKC’s 2021 pick. So the deal would look like:
James Johnson, Wolves 2020 1st round pick (#1) for Danilo Gallinari, OKC’s 2020 1st round pick (#25 via Nuggets), OKC 2021 1st round pick.
Dylan: Ok, and me being a GM in negotiation would counter by asking if you would take the Miami or Houston 1st next year. Since we own a pick swap with both of them.
Tyler: To which I would probably have to accept. Either of those would work.
Zach: I would accept that deal as well.
Dylan: Awesome! So the final deal looks like:
Wolves send: James Johnson, 2020 1st round pick (#1)
Thunder send: Danilo Gallinari, 2020 1st round pick (#25 via Nuggets), 2021 1st round pick (via Miami)
So there you have it! With this trade, the Wolves add an elite scorer/stretch 4 as well as future draft capitol in a draft where the Warriors hold their pick. While the Thunder are able to work with Gallo to send him to a team that has a path to success, while acquiring a coveted pick. With this pick they have the ability to draft Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, or the aforementioned LaMelo Ball while also still having names like Chris Paul, Dennis Schröder, and Steven Adams to trade for additional assets.
What do you think? Think the Wolves need more? Think the Thunder are giving too much? Should the Thunder take LaMelo Ball with the 1st pick?
Be sure to let me know in the comments or on my Twitter @ThunderChats and follow Zach and Tyler as well @OTH_Wolves and @WolvesGotNext!
Come back in a couple of days to find out why I think LaMelo and OKC could be a match made in heaven!