The Thunder have to do something
Lauri Markkanen would make them instant contenders
BY DAVID THORPE
Before the season, Thunder general manager Sam Presti was asked about trading for another star, and he made a case for doing nothing, explaining the All-Star everyone thinks they should add could come from the current roster. Now Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a bona fide MVP candidate and the best guard in the world not named Luka; Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams are likely future All-Stars, just as Presti envisioned; and the Thunder, the current two-seed in the West, are way ahead of schedule.
Those three have made Presti’s inactivity look smart. When teams mortgage their futures to go all-in today, they risk five years in the desert down the road—sometimes far more. I like the idea of avoiding the desert with a perennial winner.
I’ve been on record as saying the best GM is one who builds a team capable of winning 50-plus games for a decade. When you’re winning 50-plus, every fan believes you can win any game. You should be favored in at least one playoff series, and you likely have an All-Star. If things go right, you should be a yearly threat to win the conference. That’s the dream scenario for contention. The Thunder have leapfrogged into dreamland.
There’s a lot of people that want to be a part of that team that gets to a postseason in Oklahoma City and it’s getting to a point where we're really making progress on the second mountain that we've set our sights on. Most of the games are played in the cold, but when it starts to warm up and you have your windows down, that's when we want to be playing.
But this year, and this team, is not normal. The Thunder would be crazy to stand pat because there’s a move that would leave their entire future intact—all their cap flexibility, almost all their young players and draft picks—which could put them in the Finals this June.