Thunder Trade Rumors: OKC in Talks to Move Up in Draft; Cunningham, Mobley Linked

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJuly 25, 2021

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 16: USC Trojans forward Evan Mobley (4) looks on during the college basketball game between the Washington State Cougars and the USC Trojans on January 16, 2021 at Galen Center in Los Angeles, CA. The game was played without fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Oklahoma City Thunder are on the clock with the No. 6 overall pick, but the team may be busier earlier in the 2021 NBA draft if general manager Sam Presti has his way.

ESPN's Jonathan Givony reported the Thunder "have been active in conversations looking to potentially move up in the draft." Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham and USC's Evan Mobley are reported targets, which would require a top-three pick and likely the No. 1 overall selection in Cunningham's case.

Through a series of trades, Oklahoma City has assembled a treasure trove of first-round draft picks

One would assume those first-rounders will come in handy when the Thunder want to acquire a proven star once their rebuild is further along. In the meantime, those picks will also provide some flexibility if Presti wants to be aggressive in moving up.

In Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, OKC has a promising young player around which to orient its future. The 23-year-old averaged 23.7 points, 5.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds in 35 games this past season.

The Milwaukee Bucks are a bit of an anomaly in that Giannis Antetokounmpo was the 15th overall pick in 2013 and Khris Middleton was a second-rounder. In order to build a title contender from the ground up, one and usually two high lottery picks are required.

By landing Mobley or Cunningham to pair with Gilgeous-Alexander, the Thunder would have the framework for its next phase. The latter fills the obvious need for a big man in the frontcourt, while the latter could ease the playmaking burden on Gilgeous-Alexander.

Should Oklahoma City stay at No. 6, the franchise will probably land a young talent who can help them in the years ahead but perhaps not somebody who emerges as an All-NBA star.