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OKC Thunder offseason primer: Draft picks, salary decisions and preparing for 2023

Joe Mussatto

The Thunder is entering its second offseason of the rebuild, and like last offseason, everything will revolve around two franchise-altering dates: the May 17 NBA Draft Lottery, and the June 23 NBA Draft

This time, the Thunder hopes luck will be on its side. 

The Thunder had a 75% chance of landing at least one top-five pick last summer. Instead, OKC slid to the No. 6 slot, where it selected Australian point guard Josh Giddey

One year later, Giddey looks to be the best-case outcome of a worst-case scenario. 

Selecting sixth again would be a gut punch, one that might leave a lingering bruise, “but we’ll work through it no matter what happens,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Monday at his exit interview

The next two drafts, this summer and in 2023, will be OKC’s best chance of landing a transcendent talent to pair alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey, the two Thunder cornerstones who are already in place. 

With that in mind, here’s a Thunder primer entering the offseason: 

Carlson:That positivity we heard last week from Thunder players? Sam Presti feels the same way

Thunder guard Josh Giddey (3) sits on the bench during a timeout against the Suns on Feb. 24 at Paycom Center.

2022 NBA Draft

Dates to know: May 17, NBA Draft Lottery; June 23, NBA Draft

Thunder 2022 picks (4): Two lottery picks: one that can fall no lower than No. 8, and another (via the Clippers) that’s likely to convey at No. 12. In addition to those, the 30th pick (via the Suns) and the 34th pick. 

Lottery odds (own pick): No. 1: 12.5%; No. 2: 12.2%; No. 3: 11.9%; No. 4: 11.5%; No. 5: 7.2%; No. 6: 25.7%; No. 7: 16.7%; No. 8: 2.2%

Lottery odds (via Clippers pick): No. 1: 1.5%; No. 2: 1.7%; No. 3: 1.9%; No. 4: 2.1%; No. 12: 86.1%; No. 13: 6.7%; No. 14: 0.1%

Top-five draft prospects: PF/C Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga); PF Jabari Smith (Auburn); PF Paolo Banchero (Duke); G Jaden Ivey (Purdue); F Keegan Murray (Iowa)

More:Five things you might have forgotten about 2021-22 Thunder season and what they could mean for OKC's future

Thunder general manager Sam Presti spoke for 2 hours and 13 minutes Monday in his season-ending interview.

Thunder 2022-23 salary sheet

► G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: $29.8 million (first year of max extension)

► * G Kemba Walker: $27 million (cap hit from buyout) 

► C Derrick Favors: $10.2 million (player option likely to be picked up) 

► G Josh Giddey: $6.3 million (second year of rookie contract) 

► F Darius Bazley: $4.3 million (final year of rookie contract)

► G Ty Jerome: $4.2 million (final year of rookie contract) 

► C Mike Muscala: $3.5 million (team option)

► F Aleksej Pokusevski: $3.3 million (third year of rookie contract) 

► G Tre Mann: $3 million (second year of rookie contract) 

► F Kenrich Williams: $2 million (not fully guaranteed) 

► C Jeremiah Robinson-Earl: $2 million (second year of four-year contract) 

► G Luguentz Dort: $1.9 million (final year of four-year contract) 

► C Isaiah Roby: $1.9 million (team option) 

► G Theo Maledon: $1.9 million (third year of four-year contract) 

► G Aaron Wiggins: $1.6 million (second year of four-year contract) 

► G Vit Krejci: $1.6 million (second year of four-year contract) 

► G Lindy Waters III: two-way contract

► F Melvin Frazier Jr.: two-way contract

*—Walker and the Thunder reached a buyout last August. Walker went on to sign with the Knicks. 

More:Former Oklahoma State standout Lindy Waters III 'more driven' than ever after rookie year with Thunder

Roster decisions

Both Dort and Bazley are eligible for extensions, but it doesn’t sound like anything is imminent. Dort and Bazley are under contract through the end of next season, and the Thunder is trying to maintain financial flexibility entering the 2023 offseason, when a new collective bargaining agreement could be ratified. 

“I think we’ll take each one of those separately and see what happens, but they’re great,” Presti said in his exit interview. “I want to hear what they’re thinking, and I need them to understand we have to also balance the interest of the team as well.” 

Muscala, Williams, Jerome, Favors and Roby are also entering the final season of their contracts. Maledon, Wiggins and Krejci only have partial or non-guaranteed contracts for next season. 

More:OKC Thunder picks up second lottery pick in 2022 NBA Draft thanks to Pelicans win vs. Clippers

Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) is congratulated after hitting a free throw by center Aleksej Pokusevski (17) and guard Tre Mann (23) on March 2 in Denver.

Needs and fits

Don’t expect the Thunder to be players in free agency, or to swing a splashy trade. 

If the Thunder is to improve on its 24-58 record, that improvement is going to come internally, fueled by how Gilgeous-Alexander, Giddey, Dort and Mann develop. 

Presti isn’t trying to build a playoff roster for next season. If that somehow happens, it will happen organically. 

“If we were going to burn the boats to get to 40 wins, we could certainly do that,” Presti said. “Is that in the best interest of the long-term of the Thunder? Probably not.

“People can mock us for not doing that, call us competitive, whatever it is. The most competitive thing to do is exactly what we’re doing, is taking a slow approach, not looking at the clock.” 

If the Thunder falls out of the playoff race next season, it’s safe to expect similar tanking measures from the second halves of the last two seasons. 

It all comes back to 2023. It’s unlikely the Thunder does anything drastic before it knows which rules to play by.

Tramel's ScissorTales:Shai Gilgeous-Alexander report card has high marks for driving & playmaking