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The OKC Thunder Become Title Favorites With This Trade

Sam Presti and the Thunder are poised to make a big trade this off-season.

The buttons on the trade machine are blinking colors, and the machine is starting up. This trade between the OKC Thunder and Utah Jazz sees them swap key players in a win-win scenario. The OKC Thunder become title favorites with this trade, while the Utah Jazz get to go all-in on their rebuild, helping them assemble a core around the same timeline.

The OKC Thunder Become Title Favorites With This Trade

They just had their first postseason run since the 2019-20 season end in a six-game series loss to the Dallas Mavericks. It’s a series that the Thunder will feel they could have won. They had a few unlucky rebounds that they couldn’t snatch and a few shots that just wouldn’t go in. There’s a silver lining to such a devastating exit. They can actually resolve these issues this off-season. And there’s an obvious trade waiting to happen that solves all of these issues.

The Trade Details

The OKC Thunder will get Lauri Markkanen and Collin Sexton from the Utah Jazz. The Jazz will get Josh Giddey, four first-round picks, a pick swap, and two second-round picks. The OKC Thunder will be taking on $36.1 million in cap hit for the 2024-25 season by adding Markkanen and Sexton. The Utah Jazz will be cutting $27.8 million in salary as Josh Giddey is in the final year of his rookie contract.

What the Deal Does for the Jazz

Lauri Markkanen is in the final year of the four-year, $67.47 million contract extension he signed with the Chicago Bulls back in 2021. In the summer of 2025, he can become an unrestricted free agent. He was an All-Star in 2023, so he could get up to five years and $250 million in free agency.

That number doesn’t make sense for a Jazz team still a long way from contending. The better option will be to bottom out and try to get the first pick in the 2025 draft. Cooper Flagg is the consensus first pick right now, and he has the potential to be a franchise-altering talent. Markkanen is entering the prime of his career, and he’s a really good player, but he’s probably not a franchise cornerstone on a title-contending team. Furthermore, the Jazz have set the asking price high for Markkanen and OKC could blow them away with a godfather offer.

The Utah Jazz will be getting the 21-year-old Josh Giddey, who is a versatile point-forward. Combined with young talent, he raises the floor of the Jazz in the future. All signs seem to suggest that he’s on his way out of the Thunder after his underwhelming playoff performance. He managed only 18.1 minutes during the playoffs and saw that number go down to 11.8 during the Dallas series. Defenders were staying four feet off him last year, since his value as a floor spacer is minimal. That is his major weakness. His strength is his ability to create for himself and others. On the Utah Jazz, there’s a clear need for this skill on their roster.

Markkanen’s Role With the OKC Thunder

This deal solves so many issues for them, it’s a no-brainer. Firstly, the Thunder ranked 27th in rebounding during the regular season. During their series against the Dallas Mavericks, the Mavs got 20 more rebounds than them. That advantage was key for the Mavs in the sixth game, where they out-rebounded OKC 47-31 as they staged a second-half comeback. Markkanen averaged 8.2 this past season and 8.6 rebounds the year before. At 7’0″ and 240 lbs, he provides a big body to pair alongside Chet Holmgren and Jaylin Williams in the post. That length will be huge for them in the West, which is increasingly adopting a big-ball approach. The Thunder struggled against the Mavs’ length during their series. Markkanen helps solve many of those issues.

He’s a knockdown three-point shooter, averaging about .399 last year from deep on 8.0 attempts. For his career, he’s averaging .375, so his time in Utah isn’t an outlier. OKC had to rely on Lu Dort to space the floor for them. His three-point attempts went up from four and five in games one and two to eight per game during the final four games. His efficiency didn’t go up with his volume, making more than two threes just once during the series (three in game four). Markkanen would be a better option for those shots because not only can he shoot over most defenders, but he will have room to shoot or drive off the closeout due to the defense-warping ability Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has.

Lastly, he’s a good defender, averaging a defensive rating of 113 in his career. In Mark Daigneault’s schemes, he could be an intriguing option as an on-ball defender or roaming option. His length alongside Holmgren gives the OKC twin towers that can space the floor and provide elite defense on the other end. Ultimately this trade makes the OKC Thunder title favorites.

Sexton’s Role With the Thunder

Sexton is the icing on the cake. He gives the OKC some scoring from the bench. Sexton can run the offense in the minutes SGA will be on the bench. He averaged a career-high 4.9 assists for the season while averaging his second-lowest turnover rate (2.1). His efg% of .549 is the second highest of his career. Sexton shot .394 on 4.8 three-point attempts, good for the second-highest rate of his career. He can be flipped for other assets of the Thunder is not a right fit for him also, he’s on a team-friendly 18.1 million, two-year contract.

The Long-Term Implications for the Thunder

The OKC team has been cheap before when they had a promising core. Sam Presti will be hesitant to repeat the same mistakes. Despite how punitive the new CBA is, the Thunder can take the punishment if their ownership is willing to pay the luxury tax. They will have 16 first-round picks between 2024 and 2030 after this deal. At some point, they will have to trade some picks and can afford to “overpay” for a star player like Markkanen. While they could go into the second apron tax penalty this is a price worth paying for a true contender. The Thunder can also draft role players to augment their roster when they will be without the ability to have sign-and-trades or sign free agents on the mid-level exception.

Ultimately, it’s interesting how the OKC Thunder approach this off-season and look to build on the tremendous success they had this year. Next year, there will be a target on their backs. They will have expectations to compete. This trade would likely see them become title favorites despite an increasingly competitive Western Conference.


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