With the draft about 48 hours away, trade talk is heating up at the top, as the Oklahoma City Thunder have seemingly ramped up efforts to move up for a better chance at landing a future star.
There have been rumors that the Thunder and Toronto Raptors, who hold the No. 4 pick, have had exploratory discussions. The Cleveland Cavaliers reportedly require a “king’s ransom” to move pick No. 3. And the Thunder may have offered Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to the Detroit Pistons.
Let’s take a look at those rumors and the implications they bring.
The Thunder hold picks No. 6, 16, 18, 34, 36 and 55 in the 2021 draft, which is scheduled to begin Thursday at 7 p.m. Central Time.
Thunder, Raptors talk
The Toronto Raptors were reportedly still debating between Jalen Suggs, Jonathan Kuminga and Scottie Barnes as recently as this past weekend. If they like all three players, they may be willing to move down to No. 6. Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer reported that there have been some preliminary discussion between the two teams. His phrasing makes it sound like it was exploratory and remained in the beginning stages. He wrote:
"There's a sense among team officials that Oklahoma City and Toronto are exploring options on swapping the No. 4 and No. 6 picks."
The seriousness of those talks could range from a quick phone call to actual conversation. The Thunder have enough future (and current) picks that if they like Suggs enough, they may be able to move up without too much risk, depending on the Raptors' demands.
According to Fear The Sword's Evan d'Amarell, the Cleveland Cavaliers would require quite a bit to trade down from pick No. 3. d'Amarell tweeted that a Western Conference executive said they are asking for a "king's ransom." Why is that the case? Well, with the Houston Rockets reportedly zeroing in on Jalen Green with the No. 2 pick (assuming Cade Cunningham goes No. 1 to the Detroit Pistons), that leaves Evan Mobley, one of the more uniquely talented centers who has been available in the draft in recent years. With abilities in both the perimeter and the post, Mobley looks like a unicorn center in a 7-foot frame with a 7-foot-4 wingpsan. The Thunder may not have any true centers on the roster entering draft night. Mobley is second on the Thunder Wire's Big Board. The Thunder may be inclined to trade away quite a bit to get him. In recent weeks, the rumors have been that the Cavaliers are willing to trade Collin Sexton more than the pick. This latest report provides more credence to that idea.
Was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander offered in a trade proposal?
You've probably seen the reports by now. Fischer reported it and alluded to a tweet from Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman. Matt Babcock, a well-connected former agent, said he had heard the same rumors. There's nothing concrete, but the message is the same: The Thunder may have offered Gilgeous-Alexander for the No. 1 pick. Fischer wrote:
"Oklahoma City proactively called Detroit to offer Gilgeous-Alexander plus the No. 6 pick for No. 1, sources said, in an attempt to land Cade Cunningham."
That seems absurd at face level, given as Gilgeous-Alexander played like an All-Star last season and looks like he could be an All-NBA player. OKC offered that and the sixth pick? You must set aside all subjectivity to see why general manager Sam Presti might approach the Pistons with this deal. Cade Cunningham looks like he can be a top-15 player in the league, and that projection is probably conservative. He's younger than Gilgeous-Alexander and will have four years on a rookie contract, while the OKC star has one more season until he's extension-eligible and could sign for upward of $30 million a year. It would be an enormous risk to trade the franchise cornerstone for an unproven prospect. But Presti knows more than any of us about the players involved, so if the rumors are true, he would have known that Cunningham was particularly special. In all honesty: I don't think I would do it if I were the Thunder, but I also wouldn't do it if I were the Pistons. It's that type of deal.