On July 30, 2021, Jazz traded a future first-round pick and veteran Derrick Favors to the Thunder traded a future second-round pick.
The deal was nothing more than a salary dump for Utah, which had to give OKC a draft pick as a local to take over the Favors contract.
The Jazz wanted financial flexibility as a presumptive contender for the NBA title, and the Thunder was happy to collect another pick.
Fast forward 400 days. Rudy Gobert is Timberwolf. Donovan Mitchell is a knight. Bojan Bogdanovich and Mike Conley in the trading block. Quinn Snyder is no longer the coach. Danny Inge is the CEO of Salt Lake City.
How quickly things are changing in the NBA.
After negotiating off-season deals from Gobert to Minnesota and Mitchell to Cleveland, Ainge and general manager Justin Zanik pulled out along with Thunder head Sam Presti on the Grand Prix project.
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The Thunder 15 has a first-round pick over the next seven years. Nine of those are unprotected—seven from OKC’s own picks, plus unprotected picks via Clippers.
Jazz, over the same seven-year period, has 14 initial tours. All but one are unprotected.
San Antonio and Houston are other Western Conference rebuilders who have amassed heaps of picks, but Oklahoma City and Utah are in a league of their own.
But putting thunder and jazz side by side isn’t fair to either franchise.
Thunder two drafts in rebuilding. Josh Gedi, Chet Holmgren, Osman Deng and Galen Williams were lottery picks — early fruits of a new era in OKC.
Meanwhile, the dust is still fading from the demolition of the jazz. Utah doesn’t have a single cornerstone in place. OKC might already have three, depending on how you look at Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Giddey and Holmgren.
The Utah OKC has caught up in the picks race, but the Thunder has a multi-lap advantage in marathon rebuilding.
Jazz shredding certainly gives Thunder more competition, though, in its pick-focused strategy. For a while, Presti seemed to be playing his own game. Now the other GMs have joined. Draft choices are swapped like trading cards.
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Which brings us back to that favorite trade from Utah to Oklahoma City. Favors, by the way, are still on the Thunder list. He’s worth $10.2 million this season with an expired contract.
A Utah pick sent to OKC in the Favors trade is a top 10 protected in 2024. If a Utah pick drops from No. 11 to No. 30, it moves to Oklahoma City.
The Jazz team, which seemed to be ready to compete for several years to come, will likely retain that choice. It’s hard to imagine that Utah isn’t among the bottom 10 in 2024.
If he doesn’t move the pick to Thunder in 2024, he goes back to 2025 with the same top-ten protection. Who knows where the league will be by then, but there’s a chance Jazz will still be in the midst of rebuilding.
The selection is considered among the top eight protected in 2026 if it has not yet been transferred. The Thunder needs jazz to be competitive by then, because that’s when the Favors’ trade ends. If Utah lands eighth in 2026, jazz keeps its pick and OKC’s hope for a No. 1 spot melts in favor of the Favours.
Odds are that jazz pick will transfer to Thunder in one of those three years, but Gobert and Mitchell’s deals have definitely lowered OKC’s odds.
It’s just one of a dozen choices you should consider OKC and Utah.
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NBA draft picks from the first round
2023: Own (right to swap with clippers)
2024: Possession, Clippers (unprotected), Rockets (top four protected), Jazz (top 10 protected)
2025: Own (right to switch with Clippers and Rockets; top 10 protected), 76ers (top six protected), Heat (protected by lottery)
2026: Possess, Clippers (unprotected), Missiles (top four are protected)
2027: Possess, Nuggets (top five protected)