Tramel's ScissorTales: What trading up to the No. 4 pick would cost the Thunder

·18 min read

Trade rumors swirl around the NBA Draft, which begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, and the Thunder is Ground Zero of the speculation. All of Sam Presti’s trades for future No. 1 picks means the Thunder czar is the man behind the curtain of the next several drafts.

Presti has the No. 2 pick and the No. 12 pick, and a variety of reports say the Thunder is intent on using that No. 12 pick to move up in the draft.

Of course, there’s no tango without a trade partner, and Presti tried to move up from No. 6 to No. 3 a year ago, and the Cavaliers declined to dance. So just because the heart is willing doesn’t mean someone else’s flesh is weak.

It’s harder than ever to move up in the draft. In the old days, draft picks – even high picks – were considered more rocks than gemstones. Commodities considered something less than precious.

In 1972, a couple of months before the draft, the Rockets traded the No. 4 pick to the Suns for Otto Moore, a 25-year-old backup center. I guess Houston thought it needed a center, and who’s to say the Rockets didn’t? The NBA was different back then.

A year later, the TrailBlazers traded the No. 2 pick and the No. 37 pick to Cleveland for the No. 15 pick, John Johnson and Rick Roberson. Johnson actually wasn’t a bad player; he had averaged 16 points a game in three Cleveland seasons and would play well in Portland, too.

But see, that’s the point. A solid veteran often was considered more valuable than whatever promise the draft might bring.

That’s no longer the thinking.

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Draft capital is big, especially high picks. The mid-level first-round picks don’t have the same cachet they did a few years ago, but the high lottery picks remain gemstones.

I found 23 instances in the last 50 years of the NBA history when a team traded a top-four pick, either before the draft but knowing it was top-four, or immediately after the draft.

It’s fun to check out how those trades turned out, but that’s a ScissorTale for another day. We’re on the front end of a potential Thunder trade. We’ll worry about the back end if and when it happens.

For now, let’s focus on what it cost a team to move up in the draft. Historically, what has it cost teams to move into the top four?

Most speculation has OKC trying to deal with Sacramento, which has the No. 4 pick. Some reports say the Thunder are offering the No. 12 pick and Luguentz Dort (count me out on that one), or working a deal with the needy Knickerbockers for the No. 11 pick, then packaging No. 11 and No. 12 and whatever else for No. 4.

What would it take to get that fourth pick?

Variables are abundant, but it doesn’t hurt the Thunder that it would be dealing with the Kings, a dysfunctional franchise if ever there was one. Few teams come out on the wrong end of dealing with Sacramento.

But on the off chance that the Kings actually research what the No. 4 pick is worth, what would they find?

Here’s a history of teams trading the No. 3 or No. 4 overall picks:

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Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren (34) controls a rebound during an NCAA Tournament game in March. Holmgren is projected to be a top-three pick in Thursday's NBA Draft.
Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren (34) controls a rebound during an NCAA Tournament game in March. Holmgren is projected to be a top-three pick in Thursday's NBA Draft.

2019: The Lakers traded DeAndre Hunter, the fourth pick, as part of a three-team trade to land Anthony Davis. Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, three future first-round picks and Hunter were sent out.

Thunder relevancy: Not much. Dealing with a transcendent talent like Davis and a three-team trade involving so many draft picks and so many intriguing young players is a far cry from what OKC might potentially do.

2018: The Hawks traded No. 3 pick Luka Doncic to Dallas for No. 5 pick Trae Young and a 2019 first-round pick.

Thunder relevancy: Anyone with a lick of sense knew Doncic was a potential superstar, so the price would be high. To swap two slots cost Dallas only a first-round pick.

2017: The 76ers traded the No. 3 pick and a future No. 1 pick to the Celtics for the No. 1 pick. Forget, for a moment, that Boston got Jayson Tatum with the No. 3 pick and Philly took Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 pick. Focus on the trade at the time. To move up two slots, the 76ers basically gave up a future No. 1.

Thunder relevancy: In the current landscape, to move up from 12 to 4, Presti almost surely will have to let go of one or two future first-round picks.

2008: Minnesota traded No. 3 pick O.J. Mayo to Memphis for No. 5 pick Kevin Love. The deal also included the Grizzlies getting Greg Buckner, Marko Jaric and Antoine Walker, and the Timberwolves getting Brian Cardinal, Jason Collins and Mike Miller.

Thunder relevancy: Interesting. Outside Mayo and Love, the only relevant player was Miller. The others were players with little value or near the end of their careers. But Miller was a good player. The trade basically was Love and Miller for Mayo. Miller’s value probably is in the neighborhood of Dort’s current value. Would the Thunder trade Dort to move up two slots? I think that would be nuts. It was a disastrous trade for the Grizzlies. You need to be right when trading 2-for-1.

2005: The Blazers traded the No. 3 pick to the Jazz for the No. 6 pick, No. 27 pick and a lottery-protected 2006 pick.

Thunder relevancy: Interesting. To move up three slots (and eventually take Deron Williams), Utah gave up picks 6 and 27, plus the lottery-protected first-rounder. Moving up from 12 to 4 would cost much more.

2001: The Hawks traded No. 3 pick Pau Gasol, with Brevin Knight and Lorenzen Wright, to the Grizzlies for Shareef Abdur-Rahim and No. 27 pick Jamaal Tinsley.

Thunder relevancy: This was the classic high pick for an established player trade. Abdur-Rahim was a really good NBA player at the time. Knight and Wright were serviceable backups. This kind of trade isn’t made much anymore. Draft picks are considered too valuable.

1996: The Bucks traded Stephon Marbury, the fourth pick, to Minnesota for Ray Allen, the fifth pick and a future first-round pick.

Thunder relevancy: That’s a high price, a first-round pick, to switch one slot.

1990: The Nuggets traded the No. 3 pick to the Heat for the No. 9 and No. 15 picks.

Thunder relevancy: Oh man, if only you could make deals like that today.

1981: The Bulls traded the No. 4 pick and a 1982 second-round pick to the Hawks for the No. 6 pick and the No. 26 pick.

Thunder relevancy: This shows how much the value of picks has changed. To move up two slots cost the Hawks very little. I don’t even think the Kings would make this trade today.

1979: The Pistons traded the No. 4 pick to the Bucks for the No. 5 pick and cash.

Thunder relevancy: None. The NBA was different then. Franchises literally used trades to fund their operations.

1978: The Blazers traded Johnny Davis and the No. 3 pick to the Packers for the No. 1 pick.

Thunder relevancy: Not much, but interesting. To move up two slots, Portland gave up Davis, a third-year pro who had been solid but lacked star potential. Not the kind of trade a team would make today.

1978: The Nets traded the No. 4 pick, a 1979 first-round pick and cash to the Knickerbockers for the No. 13 pick and the nearly-retired Phil Jackson.

Thunder relevancy: None. The trade was part of the Nets’ settlement over territorial rights in joining the NBA after the merger with four American Basketball Association teams.

1977: The Buffalo Braves traded the No. 3 pick to the Bucks for the No. 13 pick and Swen Nater, a solid center in the middle of his career.

Thunder relevancy: Not much. To switch 10 slots, teams need much more than a Nater-like player.

1976: The Hawks traded the No. 1 pick and Dwight Jones to Houston for No. 9 pick Gus Bailey and Joe C. Meriweather.

Thunder relevancy: None. Goofy, goofy trade. The NBA has come a long way since ‘76.

So what does it all mean for the Thunder? Moving up from No. 12 to No. 4 will cost quite a bit.

I wouldn’t involve Dort in the deal. Just trading 12 and Dort for No. 4 is a big Thunder risk. No. 4 picks have a much better chance of becoming stars than do No. 12 picks, but Dort is becoming – or already is – an elite defender. Players who do something elite in the NBA aren’t easy to find.

The modern NBA treasures promise and potential. Draft picks are a way to sell the future.

Presti has too many future picks to use them all. He’ll need to make some deals.

What Presti must do is figure out when to make those trades. Now, for the promise of what a No. 4 pick could bring, or later, when first-round picks could bring some players who could elevate a playoff team.

Tramel's ScissorTales: Are the 2022 OU Sooners the greatest softball team in NCAA history?

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Rich get richer through transfer portal

OU softball gained another marquee player through the transfer portal Tuesday when Arizona State shortstop Alynah Torres announced she was joining the Sooners.

Torres, a first-team all-Pac 12 selection this season, joins Michigan’s Alex Storako, the Big Ten pitcher of the year, in using the portal to join Patty Gasso’s powerhouse program.

The Sooners two weeks ago won their fourth NCAA championship in the last six Women’s College World Serieses, and Gasso shows no signs of slowing down.

Torres hit .339 with 16 home runs last season for the Sun Devils. It’s not even like OU needed a shortstop – Grace Lyons is one of America’s best players. Torres seems likely to move to third base, where Jana Johns’ eligibility has expired.

The transfers of Torres and Storako show that softball is becoming more and more a mainline sport. The portal has been quite kind to collegiate sports powers.

We’ve seen it in college basketball, with players migrating from mid-majors and Power 5 programs to the sport’s heavyweights. We’ve seen it in football. Heck, we’ve seen it in softball even before the Land Run of the last year.

OU won the 2021 softball championship with pitcher Giselle Juarez in the circle. Juarez was an Arizona State transfer herself.

It’s great for Gasso and OU softball. Not so great for programs trying to climb the ladder and either make the World Series or do damage once they arrive.

OU figures to be on the high side of the football portal and frankly has been, even before the immediate-eligibility rule sent transferring into overdrive. For every Caleb Williams that OU has lost, four shining quarterbacks have arrived. You know the names well.

But OU basketball? OSU basketball? That’s a tougher sell. The Sooners under Porter Moser and the Cowboys under Mike Boynton are scrambling to stay even in the portal. Bring in at least as good of players as are going out.

Boynton seems to be staying ahead of the curve; Moser, we’ll see.

But that’s the tradeoff, right? You want to cheer Alynah Torres’ arrival? You have to accept the departures of De’Vion Harmon, Brady Manek, Elijah Harkless and Umoja Gibson.

On the professional level, free agency has not squashed competitive balance. Quite the contrary. But the early returns indicate that could be different on the college level.

It’s early, things could change, but right now on college campuses, the rich are getting richer. That’s good for Patty Gasso. We’ll see what it means for other programs in Norman and Stillwater.

'Women are just as capable': How NIL has become a success for women athletes 50 years after Title IX

OU slugger Jocelyn Alo has become a voice of equality for women's athletes in the NIL era.
OU slugger Jocelyn Alo has become a voice of equality for women's athletes in the NIL era.

New NIL company signing up Sooners

The name, image and likeness explosion on college sports has been a bonanza for big-time athletes and social-media whizzes. 

But NIL has yet to impact the majority of NCAA athletes.

Allie Miller and her father, Jeff Weber, hope to change that. They have formed the Dubsgroup, a company dedicated to reaching athletes with lower profiles, and they have started their efforts with OU and Texas Christian University.

“OU student-athletes have two full-time jobs,” Miller said, referring to athletics and school, “so asking them to add selling themselves to businesses, executing contracts and then fulfilling those contracts is just too much.”

That’s where Miller’s company comes in. The Dubsgroup has signed 15 of the 16 current Sooner volleyball players, plus baseball player Brett Squires.

Weber, an OU graduate now living in Fort Worth, Texas, spent 25 years in the corporate world, including sports marketing for the likes of Southwestern Bell and AT&T. He calls their endeavor “what NIL ought to be.”

The Dubsgroup reaches out to businesses with an affinity for a particular school – OU or TCU, for instance – and pitches a marketing plan with the athletes.

The athletes get two-thirds of the revenue generated, with the Dubsgroup retaining one-third.

“How in the world are you going to go market and pitch yourself, if you’re not that five-star athlete or getting a million Instagram followers?” Weber asked.

Weber laid out a potential campaign. A local burger joint like Johnnie’s in Greater OKC could sign up with the Dubsgroup.

“We’re going to approach some burger places and say, ‘College World Series,’ Sooners are doing great,” Weber said. “Let’s do a promotion with you. During the Little League World Series, bring your little leaguers into Johnnie’s, we’ll have an OU baseball player to sign autographs during these three times. You can use Brett’s name, image, likeness in advertising. We’ll be using the social feeds of the players, 25,000 posts supporting this campaign.”

Weber said such a campaign might not rise to the level of some of the collectives – a catchphrase in which boosters have tossed in money for the athletes to share for nominal efforts – but it does give entire teams a chance to make money for individuals.

Weber said the initial financial windfall for players isn’t likely to be great – he's hoping something in the $5,000 range per athlete – but that it should grow and quickly.

With the 50-year anniversary of the signing of Title IX, the federal law requiring equal access for women, Miller said it’s a unique time for female sports. A few women athletes are cashing in on NIL, but the big beneficiaries are football and men’s basketball players.

“I am very aware that this opportunity doesn’t exist without Title IX,” Miller said. “My generation is here because of the cumulative effort of women over the past 50 years.  Now I have a chance to pay it forward to the next generations.”

Weber said NIL is a largely unregulated frontier, but he believes the Dubsgroup has staying power and should appeal to potential customers.

OU and TCU basically are test markets for The Dubsgroup. Miller and her father hope to expand to other universities.

“This is a marketing decision on the part of the business that wants to sign up,” Weber said. “Not fundraising or a gift. Should be part of their marketing program.

“In three years, when NIL has taken a bunch of twists and turns, we should be in the same place -- business principles applied around a really cool subject, which is OU student-athletes.”

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Mailbag: Splendor of the CWS

Baseball’s College World Series is getting more run in The Oklahoman than at any time since 2016, when OSU last made it to Omaha. And some readers revel in the event.

Les: “Love your column and read it every day. Thanks for all the comments about the CWS. Except for this year (can’t believe I’m not there but may make a mad dash yet) and the Covid years, been hitting the CWS as a family annual tradition for quite a few years -- where else can you:

“Purchase a packet of 10 outfield tickets for $100 and take the whole family out for not one but two great games of the best in NCAA baseball, plus the outfield in Omaha is fantastic place to watch a game!

“Now if you play your cards right, especially during the day after a few innings, the entire stadium is a one-level open walkway, and it’s not hard to find a couple of empty seats along the first- or third-base line without someone chasing you out.

“Watch the security team go round and round with beach balls and other party items that magically appear between innings (even a shark on a string to play with the security on the field), all while singing Sweet Caroline.

“Watch an unknown team from Coastal Carolina knock off all the big boys for the crown and find out after the final game, the winning pitcher was a teammate of your nephew back in Georgia travel ball years earlier.

“Or be a part of the longest CWS game, that went 15 innings and over five hours into the night back in 2014, I believe, before Virginia managed a 3-2 victory on a sacrifice fly. They even played ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ twice! Seventh and 14th innings.

“Catch a ball tagged long and hard over the right-field wall and take it home with you.

“Omaha is one magical place! Everyone who has any love for the horsehide or suited up on a diamond needs to make that trip just once and they will then know. Your home-state team or even favorite team doesn’t need to be in the hunt to have the time of your life. Just go and soak in this one-of-a-kind opportunity.”

Tramel: Well, I don’t have much to add. Sounds like grand fun. Let me throw in a few things.

First, an admission. I’ve never been to baseball’s College World Series. When I was at the Norman Transcript in the 1980s, the Sooners never made it. When I got to the Oklahoman, I didn’t cover much college baseball, and the stars didn’t align.

I wonder if the same kind of fun found in Omaha is held by the majority of people who attend the Omaha spectacle? I wonder if the same kind of fun is being cultivated at the softball College World Series in OKC? My impression is yes.

Finally, I see more empty seats this year in Omaha than I remember seeing in the past. Maybe it’s Covid. Maybe it’s inflation. Maybe it’s the schedule change, with a couple more afternoon games than before.

I don’t know. But thanks, Les, for the ride through the CWS.

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The List: Worst No. 2 NBA Draft picks 

The Thunder has the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft, which commences Thursday night in New York.

No. 2 is a volatile slot. It has produced such epic players as Kevin Durant, Jason Kidd, Gary Payton and Isiah Thomas. It also has produced tragedy, with Len Bias (who died before playing an NBA game) and Jay Williams (whose career was ended by a motorcycle injury after one season).

And perhaps most distressing to Thunderland, No. 2 overall picks have produced their share of outright busts. Excluding Bias and Williams, here are the five worst No. 2 picks of the last 50 years:

1. Hasheem Thabeet, 2009: Memphis took the 7-foot-3 center, leaving the Thunder to take James Harden at No. 3. Thabeet lasted five seasons but made just 20 starts and averaged only 10.5 minutes per game.

2. Darko Milicic, 2003: The Pistons passed over Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, who went 3-4-5. Milicic lasted 10 years in the NBA but averaged just 6.0 points and 18.5 minutes per game.

3. Derrick WIlliams, 2011: The 6-foot-8 forward never found a position or a home. In eight NBA seasons, he played for six franchises and averaged 8.9 points a game and made just 112 starts.

4. Stromile Swift, 2000: The Williams story, 11 years earlier. Swift averaged 8.4 points, made 97 starts and played nine seasons.

5. Dave Meyers, 1975: Not a bad player for Milwaukee, averaging 26.6 minutes and 11.2 points a game. But Meyer missed one season with an injury, then retired after four seasons for religious reasons.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today. 

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Should OKC Thunder trade up to No. 4 pick in the NBA Draft?