The trade deadline has officially completed in the NBA and we ended up seeing some wild trades. Ben Simmons was swapped for James Harden and Kristaps Porzingis was traded for scraps. For the Thunder, however, we only saw one trade. Nonetheless, this trade deadline proved to be a positive one for OKC.
The One Thunder Trade: The Thunder traded a 2026 2nd round pick for Miami Heat wing KZ Okpala. The 2026 2nd rounder will be the worst of the Thunder’s 2026 second round picks.
KZ Okpala may be an interesting young piece if he gets some burn for the Thunder this year. He’s only appeared in 63 games in his career but has shown great defensive and athletic potential. He is also shooting 34% from three on low attempts this year which can certainly be something for the Thunder to explore.
The more interesting part of this trade, though, has to do with draft capital. The Thunder decided to roll back the Heat 2023 pick to 2025/2026. The pick will be lottery protected in 2025 and will become an unprotected 2026 first round pick should it not convey in 2025. Basically, the Thunder want the Heat to be good in 2025 but bad in 2026 to get the optimal return on this deal.
This frees the pick up for the Heat to trade it now should they look to make a bigger acquisition. For the Thunder, this trade is good because they can bank on the fact that the Heat will not be as good in 2025/26 as Butler will be 35 and making a very high salary, minimizing their depth. With the Thunder’s abundance of picks in the near future, I don’t expect this to be the last kind of deal like this that we see.
Every Other Trade: Thunder fans should be happy about two new competitors for the Western Conference play-in race. With New Orleans adding CJ McCollum and the Kings adding Domantas Sabonis, both teams stand to be threats to send the Clippers into the lottery. The Thunder own the Clippers unprotected pick this offseason, so them ending up in the lottery is very important.
Additionally, the Clippers trading away Serge Ibaka to the Bucks without adding much talent in return will be big in deciding whether or not they make (and ultimately win) the play-in tournament.
The Thunder did get some new lottery contenders, though. With Indiana trading Sabonis they are primed to drop in the standings even further and could end up with a worse record than OKC. San Antonio also arguably got worse by trading Thad Young and Derrick White.
The Thunder only made one move, but the direction is clear. The team is trying to maximize their draft position and trading for players such as Tobias Harris for salary dumps jeopardizes this draft position. I expect the team to be somewhat active in the offseason, but for now they will ride out the season with their current roster, including Kenrich Williams and Mike Muscala. Ultimately, some level of veteran leadership is important, so Oklahoma City not moving on from these two may prove to be a valuable decision down the road.