The Oklahoma City Thunder made a pair of franchise-altering trades over the past month as the franchise shipped both Paul George and Russell Westbrook out of town. But this apparently wasn’t the first time that OKC contemplated major roster changes.
According to Howard Beck of Bleacher Report, the Thunder were planning to “hit the reset button” after the 2019-20 season prior to George requesting a trade.
The clock was already ticking loudly on the Westbrook era, with team officials quietly preparing to hit the reset button next summer, per sources, after one more run. George’s surprise trade request simply accelerated the process — and freed the Thunder to make the moves they knew were overdue for a team that couldn’t win a playoff series.
In recent weeks, the Thunder ended up sending George to the Los Angeles Clippers and Westbrook to the Houston Rockets, while obtaining a king’s ransom of draft picks to go along with Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari.
The Thunder are fresh off a first-round playoff exit courtesy of the Portland Trail Blazers, and it marks the third consecutive postseason that the franchise has bowed out in the opening round. In addition, Westbrook is coming off a season in which he averaged 22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 10.7 assists, but shot just 42.8 percent from the field.
With George already on the move, it was clear that Westbrook wouldn’t be far behind and general manager Sam Presti maximized the value of both superstars. Presti has acquired eight first-round picks since draft night with five coming from the Clippers, two from the Rockets, and one from the Denver Nuggets in the Jerami Grant trade.
The Thunder now appear to be in rebuild mode and could garner even more assets if they decide to trade Paul. Instead of giving it one more go-round, Oklahoma City is getting a jump-start on reshaping its roster, and there’s plenty of reason for optimism surrounding the team.