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Sunday, June 16, 2024

How OKC Thunder Actually Won The NBA Draft Lottery

  • Despite missing on the first pick, Oklahoma City nabbed the second and 12th overall picks.
  • This will be Sam Presti’s first top-five selection since taking James Harden third in 2009.
Bryan Terry

The Orlando Magic may have won the first overall pick at Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery, but the Oklahoma City Thunder were the real winners, nabbing the second and 12th overall picks.

OKC general manager Sam Presti had been preparing for this moment, trading superstars like Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and Paul George for picks and financial flexibility amid a dramatic rebuild.

The Thunder haven’t won more than 24 games in each of the past two seasons and suffered a league-worst 73-point loss earlier this season, but Presti has amassed 38 picks over the next six years — and this is a good draft for OKC to make a splash.

  • This will be Presti’s first top-five selection since 2009 (James Harden, 3rd).
  • Before Harden, he drafted Kevin Durant (2nd) and Russell Westbrook (4th) — and the Thunder reached the playoffs 10 of 11 seasons with that Big Three.
  • The Thunder will likely end up with one of the three favorites to go first: Jabari Smith Jr. (-125), Chet Holmgren (+150), or Paolo Banchero (+500).

Presti has created the necessary space for a possible franchise-changing selection. OKC’s $82 million payroll is by far the lowest in the NBA — $35.3 million below the second-lowest Memphis Grizzlies. 

Plus, the squad is built around a young core of guards like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (5 YRs, $172M), Lu Dort (4 YRs, $5.4M), and rookie Josh Giddey (4 YRs, $27.2M). Any of the projected top three — all forwards or centers — could complement OKC’s current setup. 

With the right selection, Presti can finally start the Thunder’s rebuild in earnest.

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