At 12 p.m. ET today, NBA trade season officially began. Just after 1 p.m. ET, we got our first big official deal when the news broke that the Phoenix Suns would be acquiring Chris Paul from the Oklahoma City Thunder. In exchange, Phoenix is sending two starters in Ricky Rubio and Kelly Oubre along with a protected first-round pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
It's a great deal for Phoenix. Paul is still owed an ungodly amount of money in the next two years ($41 million this year, $44 million in 2022), but the Suns managed to keep their pick in this year's draft and the only really notable asset they gave up was Oubre. Rubio is good but we all know who he is as a player at this point. The fact that the 2022 pick is lottery-protected makes it even better.
For OKC, landing Oubre and a pick along with a steady vet in Rubio and two other young players is a good haul for the 35-year-old Paul, especially when paired with all the money coming off the books. Thunder General manager Sam Presti has done a remarkable job over the last two years. He traded Paul George for a ton of the Clippers' assets, traded what was viewed as an untouchable contract in Russell Westbrook for a substantial return, and did the same thing again with Paul.
It is also fair to wonder at this juncture if Presti's sole goal is to acquire as many draft picks as humanly possible. He's doing a good job of it. The Thunder right now have 17 first round picks over the next seven years. Seventeen! I mean, just look at this.
Remarkable. Most of these picks aren't going to be very good, admittedly. The Clippers should be among the best teams in the league for the next two years at least and the Rockets, despite all the rumors of late, still have James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Phoenix made this most recent trade specifically to get out of life in the lottery. Having about a million first-round picks is only so useful when the vast majority of those picks will be in the 20s.
Still, what a job Presti has done. It would be unexpected if the Thunder used all of these. Teams can only have so many young players if they want to balance development with winning, as the Thunder clearly are at this point. But even the notorious Danny Ainge has to be in awe of the asset accumulation by Presti here.
The Thunder have now taken the full first step in a rebuild. The next step, and the hardest, is to actually do something with all these theoretical players. Presti has been masterful to this point, but his job is far from over.