2024 NBA Draft grades, Round 1

by Adam Finkelstein

1. Atlanta Hawks: SF Zaccharie Risacher, France

It’s solid but unspectacular, but that’s what you expect in this draft. Risacher is a 3-and-D prototype, which you’d hope for more from a No. 1 overall pick, but that’s what you’re getting in this class. The better course of action would have been to trade down, but that option didn’t seem to present itself to the Hawks. Grade: B

2. Washington Wizards: C Alex Sarr, France

This is what Sarr wanted. He wanted to be with the Wizards, and the Wizards wanted him. Many thought he was the best prospect in this draft because he’s an exceptionally mobile 7-footer who can play on the perimeter. But the worry is his lack of physicality. He’s going to need to put on 20-plus pounds of muscle to do what he wants on the floor. And I also don’t fully trust the shooting from 3, which will be a key skill for him to hit on. Grade: B+

3. Houston Rockets (via Nets): PG Reed Sheppard, Kentucky

Sheppard exceeded all expectations at Kentucky and became one of the most efficient freshmen in the country. Now he goes to the Rockets, a team that was seen as having interest in several players but chooses to add to their young backcourt with much-needed marksman shooting. At worst, he’s an extraordinary role player, but you’d hope for a higher ceiling at third overall. I worry about the extreme shooting being an outlier since he wasn’t as good in high school, and I worry about his size on defense. … But I’ve been wrong about him beforeGrade: B

4. San Antonio Spurs: SG Stephon Castle, Connecticut

Castle was an outstanding multi-positional defender for the national champion Huskies and flashed offensive skills as a creator. I have questions about the fit in San Antonio. He’s 6-6, and while some believe he could be a point guard, he played the 3 at UConn and was better off on the weak side slashing. The shooting is the real issue, and the Spurs need shooting around Wembanyama. He’s ultra-versatile, but if he’s not a shooter, does it work? Grade: B-

5. Detroit Pistons: SF Ron Holland, G League Ignite

Holland was the No. 1 recruit in the country last year but had an up-and-down season with the Ignite. His talent is obvious because of his defensive ability on the perimeter and his motor. He does a lot of great things and was my favorite prospect in the class. The issue is the fit: The Pistons desperately need shooting, and Holland’s shot is not where it needs to be to help there. Grade: B

6. Charlotte Hornets: PF Tidjane Salaun, France

Salaun is 18 years old, has a terrific build, a high motor and shooting potential on top of it, especially on a Charlotte team that needs a 4 man more than anything else. It’s contrary to a lot of people’s takes, but he has terrific potential with his physical tools. Grade: B+

7. Portland Trail Blazers: C Donovan Clingan, Connecticut

This is a best-case scenario for Portland. There was real talk that he could go No. 1. There were teams trying to trade up for him. But the Blazers always wanted him, and he fell to them at 7. He’s a defensive monster with his size, rebounding and shot-blocking, but we don’t talk enough about the offensive potential with his slip passes and ability to put it on the floor. And I believe that shooting could be around the corner. Grade: A

8. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Spurs and Raptors): PG Rob Dillingham, Kentucky

This is a really high-risk, high-reward pick for Minnesota, which traded for the pick during the draft from the Spurs. Dillingham is a dynamic offensive talent but comes with questions, particularly about his size and defense. He was rated in the bottom 1% for most of the season as a defender — until he fell to the 0% by the end of it. The things he can do with a basketball cannot be taught, but he needs to get his body to an NBA level. But it’s worth noting that he makes a lot of sense as a secondary creator next to Anthony Edwards, one of the true rising stars of the league. Grade: B

9. Memphis Grizzlies: C Zach Edey, Purdue

This is a pick where beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Nobody cares what Edey did in college in terms of Edey’s decorated trophy case. But they do care about your rate of improvement — and Edey improved every single year. He’s massive, so big that it can actually hurt him on defense because he will be attacked on ball screens. But he’s massive, he’s a worker and he’s improving every single day. And he fits: Edey is the best screener in the draft, and Ja Morant loves running a pick-and-roll. Grade: B

10. Utah Jazz: SF Cody Williams, Colorado

Williams is one of the more notable high-risk/high-reward prospects in this draft. He missed some time during his one college season but showed a versatile skill set as a big, fluid wing who can shoot. Older brother Jalen Williams is a rising star for the Thunder, and the Jazz hope Cody can produce at a similar level. But he hasn’t turned the potential into production in the way his brother has. If he does, this is a great pick. Grade: B

11. Chicago Bulls: PF Matas Buzelis, G League Ignite

He is a player with a wide range of outcomes, but there was a high probability that he would be off the board before this because of his size and skill. He has playmaking ability off the dribble at 6-9, and he can do a lot of things across the court. The shooting is a work in progress, as a senior year of high school hot streak doesn’t reflect his otherwise lesser numbers. If he locks in on defense at a level we haven’t seen before, he has the skill set to be good on that end with his wingspan. Grade: B+

12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Rockets): PG Nikola Topic, Serbia

I had this in my mock drafts because the fit makes so much sense. Topic is coming off a knee injury that could cost him his rookie season. But he had a breakout season before that injury and emerged as a top-five prospect. He is a great passer who gets the ball into the paint, and he goes to a young team that can afford to be patient because of the Thunder’s depth. Grade: A-

13. Sacramento Kings: SG Devin Carter, Providence

This is a straight A. Carter was one of my three favorite prospects in this class relative to expectations. He’s an elite competitor going to a team where he can help right away. You don’t bet against elite competitors. He stepped up big-time when Bryce Hopkins went down. He has an NBA pedigree, and he is ready to go. Grade: A

14. Washington Wizards (via Blazers, Warriors): PG Carlton Carrington, Pittsburgh

“Bub” had some huge fans in the draft process after a very productive freshman season saw him turn himself into a one-and-done unexpectedly. He’s a late-blooming guard who grew 8 inches since beginning high school. Even the Pittsburgh staff was surprised how good he was because of his high IQ. He needs to develop that body now to make it work at the NBA level, but this is the player they wanted in trading back and now they get him. Grade: B

15. Miami Heat: C Kel’el Ware, Indiana

Ware is the most polarizing prospect in this class. There are a lot of those guys, but he’s the most extreme. He’s been that way since high school. He has every single tool in the book: size, speed, hands, touch out to the perimeter. But he’s said out loud he’s not sure how much he loves basketball. There have been questions about motor, physicality, etc. But going to the Heat and Heat culture will be great for him — unless he can’t fit in. Grade: B-

16. Philadelphia 76ers: SG Jared McCain, Duke

If Dalton Knecht weren’t on the board, I’d bump this up a grade. But I love what McCain brings as a shooter and scorer and personality. Defensively, he and Tyrese Maxey may not be ideal as two smaller guards who focus on offense. But there’s a lot to like, and adding shooting around Joel Embiid makes sense. And his competitive spirit is worth betting on. Grade: B+

17. Los Angeles Lakers: SG Dalton Knecht, Tennessee

This is an absolute no-brainer, someone whom I would have taken in the top seven. Big time scorer, big time shot-maker. He’s not just a shooter, but he can run off screens and be a primary domino and unlock playbooks. For JJ Redick, a shooter himself, I like the coach-player fit because Redick will know how to use him. Grade: A+

18. Orlando Magic: SF Tristan da Silva, Colorado

He’s a plug-and-play wing who has good size and makes shots and good decisions. If he bulks up his size, he can play small-ball 4 but now is a 3. He does a lot of things well including helping with creation and 3-pointers. Grade: B

19. Toronto Raptors (via Pacers): SG Ja’Kobe Walter, Baylor

It’s slightly redundant with them taking Gradey Dick last year because Walter’s upside comes as a shooter — even though he did not shoot as well as hoped this past season as a freshman. This is a team that has historically prioritized length and athleticism, but Walter doesn’t fit that description. Grade: B

20. Cleveland Cavaliers: SG Jaylon Tyson, California

If you saw him this year at Cal, you’re going to be excited about this pick. If you saw him the year before at Texas Tech, not so much. He really took advantage of a need for ball dominance at Cal and made it work for him. He’s a big facilitating guard, but the question is whether he can be an off-ball shooter when he doesn’t get the ball as often. Grade: B-

21. New Orleans Pelicans (via Bucks): C Yves Missi, Baylor

New Orleans has a young asset at every position except center, and this solves that. Missi has the same potential as Dereck Lively to be an early achiever because he’s a natural rim protector and defensive presence. He should have been off the board in terms of his upside, but now he goes to a really good fit. Grade: A-

22. Denver Nuggets (via Phoenix Suns): C Da’Ron Holmes, Dayton

The Nuggets traded up here for a versatile big man who really fits well. Holmes bet on himself, returned to school, developed his shooting range and built himself into a first-round pick. The shooting was a real difference maker and puts him in a place to help Denver, which had really liked him through the process but knew it couldn’t wait until 28. Grade: B-

23. Milwaukee Bucks (via Pelicans): SG AJ Johnson, NBL Austraila

This is a stretch even though Johnson is a potential first-round talent. In Milwaukee, they need players who can come in and play right now. Johnson was a five-star recruit who decided to go overseas instead of Texas. He’s a big-time talent who is smooth but a ways away. Grade: C+

24. Washington Wizards (via Knicks and Mavericks): SG Kyshawn George, Miami

The Wizards traded up for George, who was born and raised in Europe before playing a season for the Hurricanes. This shows that their plan is clear: They’re taking upside plays with all three of their picks. George has high-upside outcomes because of the things he is capable of doing, but there’s a problem: He’s never produced. George averaged 7 points per game last season. The Wizards have time to give him a shot, but he’s going to have to make a big leap. Grade: C+

25. New York Knicks: SF Pacome Dadiet, France

Big wing with a big moon-ball shot and a soft, natural touch. This is a long-term play. If he does come over, he’ll be a G Leaguer, but he more than likely will stay in Europe after playing in Germany last season. Grade: C+

26. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Knicks, Wizards and Clippers): SF Dillon Jones, Weber State

This is classic OKC. They take a flier on a guy who has versatility and potential with low risk by trading into this position. He fits their profile of a paint-touch guy who can do a lot of things. If he can figure out defense and shoot well, there’s some real potential here. Grade: B

27. Minnesota Timberwolves: SF Terrence Shannon Jr., Illinois

He was one of the best players in college basketball last year but will need to adapt to a big change in role after all his freedom. But the offensive burst he brings to the table is real, and he is an NBA player right now. The shot will need to hold up, but the talent is there and so is the polish. Grade: B+

28. Phoenix Suns (via Denver Nuggets): PF Ryan Dunn, Virginia

One of the best defensive players in college basketball, he is an explosive athlete who didn’t get to show it much because of Virginia’s pace. He’s also a great cutter who can show it with the Suns’ spacing. If he can get to the point where defenses have to show him even a little respect as a shooter, he will be a long-term NBA player. But he’s not there at all as a shooter yet. Grade: B

29. Utah Jazz (via Thunder): PG Isaiah Collier, USC

His passing is his best asset, and when he plays to that skill, he’s got the most upside. He is a big power guard who can get downhill and see the field. The first issue is turnovers, which are normal. Secondly, he didn’t defend last year even though he has the physical gifts. But the biggest one is the shooting. If he pulls that up, he’ll be strong. Grade: B

30. Boston Celtics: SF Baylor Scheierman, Creighton

I am a believer in Scheierman and this is a great fit. It seems like it might have been between him and Duke center Kyle Filipowski. When you have a primary domino like Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown, Scheierman will be able to play off them and create for them. Plus he can shoot and rebound. Grade: A-

2024 NBA Draft grades, Round 2 

by Kyle Boone on Thursday, June 27

31. Toronto Raptors (via Pistons)

32. Utah Jazz (via Wizards)

33. Milwaukee Bucks (via Trail Blazers)

34. Portland Trail Blazers (via Hornets)

35. San Antonio Spurs

36. Indiana Pacers (via Raptors)

37. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Grizzlies)

38. New York Knicks (via Jazz)

39. Memphis Grizzlies (via Nets)

40. Portland Trail Blazers (via Hawks)

41. Philadelphia 76ers (via Bulls)

42. Charlotte Hornets (via Rockets)

43. Miami Heat

44. Houston Rockets (via Warriors)

45. Sacramento Kings

46. Los Angeles Clippers (via Pacers)

47. Orlando Magic

48. San Antonio Spurs (via Lakers)

49. Indiana Pacers (via Cavaliers)

50. Indiana Pacers (via Pelicans)

51. New York Knicks (via Wizards and Suns)

52. Golden State Warriors (via Bucks)

53. Detroit Pistons (via Knicks)

54. Boston Celtics (via Mavericks)

55. Los Angeles Lakers (via Clippers)

56. Phoenix Suns (via Nuggets and Timberwolves)

57. Memphis Grizzlies (via Thunder)

58. Dallas Mavericks (via Celtics)


The second round of the 2024 NBA Draft kicks off Thursday night with the No. 31 pick, held by the Toronto Raptors.

With well-known names and unknown talents vying to be selected before the draft ends with the 58th pick, here are the prospects viewed as the top available players:

  1. SG Johnny Furphy, Kansas
    Australian late bloomer lacks pure strength but has the traits to be an-off-the-bench shooter at 6-foot-9 while he grows into his frame at age 19.
    2. PG Tyler Kolek, Marquette
    Not explosive enough to run by NBA on-ball defense but crafty with the vision to lead the second unit and dominate in pick-and-roll sets.
    3. Kyle Filipowski, Duke
    Fundamentally sound with the touch as a shooter to be a mismatch problem. NBA teams fear he’ll be in chase mode too often on defense.
    4. SG Cam Christie, Minnesota
    Lead guard with room for growth at 18, he’s more of a project than most shooting guards in this class but patience could be richly rewarded.
    5. PF Bobi Klintman, Sweden
    More mobile than given credit for, Klintman has size (6-9, 212) and the range to space the floor.
    6. SG Justin Edwards, Kentucky
    All the tools to take off in the right role, Edwards has a nearly 7-foot wingspan, giving him a foothold as a defensive stopper until his 3-point shot becomes more consistent.
    7. Tyler Smith, G League Ignite
    Southpaw shoots it well and at age 19 has enough upside to earn a spot because of his potent finishing skills.
    8. PG Juan Nunez, Spain
    From the Ricky Rubio mold of pass-first point guards with slick handles and creativity, Nunez lacks the mid-range game and jump shot to be more than a backup for now.
    9. SF Kevin McCullar Jr., Kansas
    Competitive and experienced, McCullar isn’t elite in any single area. His value is versatility, particularly consistent rebounding and defense for his 6-7, 212-pound frame.
    10. SG Pelle Larsson, Arizona
    A gamer who makes winning basketball plays and decisions. Size and savvy are Larsson’s calling cards, even if he didn’t test exceptionally well or finish with ease against NBA bigs.


OG Anunoby and the New York Knicks agreed to a five-year, $212.5 million deal on Wednesday, two days after he opted out of the final year of his existing deal.

Contract terms were reported by The Athletic and ESPN less than an hour before the NBA draft began on Wednesday.

Rather than hit free agency when the NBA market opens Sunday, Anunoby remains in the fold even after the Knicks acquired Mikal Bridges from the Brooklyn Nets for multiple draft picks.

Anunoby signed a four-year, $72 million deal with the Toronto Raptors in 2020 with a player option for the 2024-25 season, but he declined the $19.9 million salary for next season to set up the massive contract agreement Wednesday.

Results were indisputable with Anunoby on the court in New York: the Knicks were 20-3 in games he played after the trade from Toronto that sent RJ Barrett to the Raptors.

Health is the biggest question mark on Anunoby’s resume. He missed 76 total games the past three seasons due to injuries and did not play during Toronto’s NBA title run in 2019 following an emergency appendectomy.

Anunoby turns 27 next month. He averaged 14.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game last season in 50 total regular-season games with the Raptors (27 games) and Knicks.

During the 2024 playoffs, Anunoby went from an essential cog in beating the Philadelphia 76ers to attempting to fight through a hamstring injury in the seven-game series with the Indiana Pacers.

In 418 career games, Anunoby has averaged 12.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.3 steals during his first seven NBA seasons.


The Portland Trail Blazers are acquiring forward Deni Avdija from the Washington Wizards for veteran guard Malcolm Brogdon, the No. 14 overall pick in Wednesday’s draft, a first-round draft choice in 2029 and future second-round pick, ESPN reported.

Avdija, 23, is coming off the best of his four NBA seasons. He averaged career highs of 14.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists and also shot a career-best 50.6 percent from the field while playing 75 games (all starts).

Avdija, who is from Israel, has career averages of 9.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 287 games (155 starts).

Brogdon played just one season with Portland and averaged 15.7 points, 5.5 assists and 3.8 rebounds in 39 games (25 starts). He shot 41.2 percent from 3-point range and missed time due to multiple injuries.

Brogdon, 31, has played eight NBA seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks (2016-19), Indiana Pacers (2019-22), Boston Celtics (2022-23) and Trail Blazers. He was Rookie of the Year in 2016-17 for Milwaukee and Sixth Man of the Year for the Celtics in his lone season in Boston.


The Golden State Warriors are aggressively pursuing trade options for Los Angeles Clippers superstar Paul George and would offer him the four-year max extension he’s seeking, ESPN reported Wednesday.

George reportedly is in a staredown with the Clippers, who are offering the nine-time All-Star a three-year extension at less than max value. The Clippers are betting that George, a Palmdale, Calif., native, wouldn’t leave his hometown team, per the report.

“Golden State is big-fish hunting. Remember, last trade deadline, they put a call in about LeBron James. They are sniffing around big deals. If Paul George is willing to leave, they would like to be an option for him,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported Wednesday.

George has until Saturday, the day before free agency begins, to decide whether to exercise his $48.8 million player option for the 2024-25 season.

NBA insider Marc Stein said the Warriors would make point guard Chris Paul the centerpiece of a trade to the Clippers for George.

George just completed his fifth season with the Clippers. He’s averaged 20.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 867 career games (819 starts) with the Indiana Pacers (2010-17), Oklahoma City Thunder (2017-19) and Clippers.


After seeing teammate Mikal Bridges get shipped to the New York Knicks on Tuesday night, Nets forward Cameron Johnson could be among those who are the next to go as Brooklyn works toward a complete rebuild, HoopsHype reported Wednesday.

Ben Simmons, Dorian Finney-Smith, Dennis Schroder and Day’Ron Sharpe are also on the trade block, per the report. The Nets could also look to move Bojan Bogdanovic, who was just acquired from New York in the Bridges deal.

Johnson had been playing alongside Bridges for his entire career, as the two spent three full seasons together in Phoenix before the Suns traded them to Brooklyn in exchange for Kevin Durant during the 2022-23 campaign.

But the Nets went 32-50 last season, missing out on the playoffs for the first time in six years. They’ve started their rebuild with a massive haul of picks from the Knicks, who sent over four unprotected first-round picks, a top-four protected first-round pick, a second-rounder and a 2028 unprotected pick swap.

Johnson, 28, played in 58 games last season, making 47 starts. He averaged 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting 44.6 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from 3-point range.

If Johnson is in fact available, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be among the teams pursuing him, according to a report from Cleveland.com.


MIAMI (AP) — Bam Adebayo, one of the NBA’s top defensive players and soon to become a two-time U.S. Olympian, intends to sign a three-year, $166 million extension with the Miami Heat when the league’s offseason moratorium on such moves is lifted next month, a person with knowledge of the decision said Wednesday.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither Adebayo nor the team had revealed the decision publicly. Adebayo can sign the deal on July 6, by league rule.

Miami’s captain and starting center has two years and about $72 million remaining on his current deal with the Heat, the only team that he’s played for since Miami drafted him in 2017.

Adebayo has made the NBA’s All-Defensive team in each of the last five seasons, getting selected for the first team for the first time this past season.

“I feel it’s a long time coming, obviously,” Adebayo said when he made the first team. “Just staying in this moment, enjoying it, blessed to be able to be one of the ones selected.”

A member of the U.S. Olympic team that won gold at the Tokyo Games three years ago, Adebayo is part of the team that will play at the Paris Games starting next month. He averaged 19.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists this past season for the Heat.

Adebayo is three years into his current deal, a five-year, $163 million contract.


Center Nic Claxton has reached an agreement on a four-year, $100 million contract extension with the Brooklyn Nets, multiple outlets reported Wednesday.

ESPN identified Claxton as “intends to sign” while The Athletic termed him “nearing plans to sign” with a guaranteed amount of $96 million.

Claxton, 25, recorded career highs for the Nets in 2023-24 in rebounds (9.9) and assists (2.1) while scoring 11.8 points per game, the second-best average of his career.

He’s also shown durability the past two seasons, missing a total of 17 games after injuries being a concern early in his career.

Claxton appeared in a total of 94 games over his first three seasons.



Before we talk about the Oklahoma City Thunder’s offseason, which already began with a bang, let’s establish something: This team doesn’t necessarily need to do anything further to win the 2025 NBA championship.

The Thunder are coming off a season in which they won 57 games, posted the league’s second-best net rating behind only the title-winning Celtics, became the youngest team ever to finish as a conference’s No. 1 seed, and came within a hair’s breadth of forcing a Game 7 at home against the eventual West champs in the second round of the playoffs.

Their best player is a 25-year-old who just finished runner-up in MVP voting. Their second- and third-best players are 23 and 22, having garnered All-Star consideration in their sophomore and rookie seasons, respectively. Internal development is only going to make them more dangerous. So will exchanging their most problematic starter in Josh Giddey for a veteran role player in Alex Caruso who fits their identity to a T.

All that said, the Thunder still have clear areas where they can stand to improve via external help. And with the option to carve out close to $40 million in cap space, on top of being armed with one of the most stocked draft-asset arsenals in NBA history, they have every possible means of making those improvements. The question is what type of player(s) they should be targeting to complete their championship puzzle.

Let’s start by looking at where Caruso helps them most, and where his acquisition still leaves them wanting.

The biggest and most obvious upgrade he represents is on defense, where OKC already ranked second in the NBA in points allowed per possession this past season. Giddey brought good positional size as a 6-foot-8 guard but was limited by poor lateral agility, a neutral wingspan, and below-average strength. Caruso, meanwhile, might be the best point-of-attack defender in basketball. He’s three inches shorter than Giddey with a similar lack of length, but his strength and balance give him more functional size, with the ability to lock down four positions while providing elite paint deterrence as a nail helper and low man.

He also has some of the fastest and stickiest hands in the business, which means he’ll add a slew of additional deflections and takeaways to a team that just finished top-two in both categories. A starting lineup featuring Caruso, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams, Lu Dort, and Chet Holmgren is a freaking bear trap that can ensnare opponents with any conceivable coverage: switching, blitzing, dropping, lock-and-trailing, zoning, full-court pressing, you name it.

Caruso can also provide an offensive upgrade, despite lacking Giddey’s skill as a ball-handler and, especially, as a passer. Because the Thunder are set for shot creation anyway with Gilgeous-Alexander and Williams, Giddey’s on-ball skills never mattered as much to them as Caruso’s superior off-ball skills will. Giddey’s shooting struggles made him borderline unplayable in that second-round series against Dallas as the Mavs cross-matched their centers onto him, kept those centers parked in the lane, and dared him to make them pay. (Narrator: He couldn’t.)

Caruso has never been a high-volume 3-point shooter, and his percentages have fluctuated wildly from season to season, but he nets out at 38% for his career after a season in which he hit 41% from deep. His inconsistency and occasional reluctance mean he’ll likely see his share of center cross-matches as well, but he’s a better bet to make that coverage untenable for opposing defenses. That’s true not only because he can knock down more of his open shots, but also because he’s a better screen-and-rolling guard than Giddey, having grown comfortable on that end of inverted ball-screen actions with DeMar DeRozan in Chicago and LeBron James in Los Angeles. Additionally, Caruso’s proclivity for live-ball turnover generation will further fuel the Thunder’s killer transition attack.

Now, as to those lingering weaknesses…

One place OKC might be negatively impacted by the Giddey-for-Caruso exchange is on the glass, where Giddey was one of the better rebounders (to damn him with faint praise) for a team that ranked 29th in overall rebound rate. That’s one of the most profound ways the team felt its lack of frontcourt size beyond Holmgren (with basically no true power forwards in the rotation), though certainly not the only way. In truth, the rebounding issue didn’t burn the Thunder as badly in the postseason as it seemed like it might, in large part because they counteracted it with a gargantuan turnover advantage that led to them handily winning the possession battle on balance.

Their defense held up just fine in the playoffs; it was their offense – which mustered just 110.9 points per 100 possessions, down from 118.3 during the regular season – that let them down in the end. That drop-off owed largely to some shooting struggles that Caruso will help address, but also to the aforementioned size deficiency that he will not. OKC really struggled to convert at the basket, especially against a Dallas defense that boasted a ton of length and had its centers playing a one-man zone around the rim.

The Thunder, for all their relentless dribble-driving, lacked the kind of imposing presence who could consistently finish through or over that length. Trying to invert spacing with Holmgren on the perimeter and a guard or wing in the dunker spot didn’t help matters. Going from Giddey to Caruso certainly doesn’t hurt in that regard – Giddey’s always been a poor finisher, and Caruso’s shooting gravity might clear some obstacles out of the paint – but it feels like OKC is still a big body short.

And while it makes sense to target a center who can play 15-18 minutes a game and alongside Holmgren situationally (a la Andre Drummond), the bigger focus for Sam Presti and Co. in the size hunt should be adding a legit power forward. Holmgren’s offense is infinitely more valuable at the five, and he showed as a rookie that he’s plenty capable of anchoring the back line of an elite defense. Sure, some of the team’s rebounding issues fell on him and his slender frame, but just as much blame lay with his teammates for failing to corral misses behind him when he contested shots or switched out on the perimeter. It would be super helpful to have more size behind him, and all the better if that additional size doesn’t compromise the team’s five-out offensive concepts.

There’s a reason I (and others) became fixated on the idea of the Thunder paying out the nose for Lauri Markkanen last season. Imagine what it would mean for them to add another 7-footer who can rebound, score inside, hold his own on defense, and shoot the leather out of the ball. The problem is hardly any guys in the league fit that description, and Markkanen might not be available. There’s likewise only one Aaron Gordon (a very different type of four, but one who could be comparably impactful for this team while addressing a slightly different set of issues), and he isn’t going anywhere.

In other words, it’s one thing to point out the type of player the Thunder need most and another to identify an attainable player in that mold. Paul George would fit the bill if OKC could lure him back as a free agent (and how delicious would that be as a capstone to an already lopsided trade?), but that feels pretty unrealistic. As does prying OG Anunoby away from the Knicks. Jerami Grant ticks a lot of boxes, except maybe the one that matters most to OKC, given that he’s one of the worst rebounders for his size in the league. (His contract would also be unpalatable to the front office.)

Deni Avdija would be a fascinating fit if Washington could be talked into moving him. He’s a playmaking four who plays kickass multi-positional defense, made a huge leap as a 3-point shooter (37%) last season, shot 70% at the rim on 86th-percentile volume, and is on a steal of a contract for the next four years. Unfortunately those are also all reasons why the Wizards will be disinclined to trade him. Jonathan Isaac’s health is a huge concern, but his upside would make him worth the risk if the Magic were open to a deal.

Even if they can’t find the ideal power-forward fit, there are plenty of different avenues that can prove fruitful for the Thunder because of how close they already are to their ultimate goal. A creative signing or two, another creative trade, or even a solid draft pick might be all they need. Heck, if they’d gotten something better than Gordon Hayward and Bismack Biyombo at this year’s trade deadline, they might well have found themselves duking it out with Boston in the Finals. Acquiring a rebound-gobbling center (like Isaish Hartenstein) can work, so long as it doesn’t turn Holmgren into a full-time four. Adding a sharpshooter like Klay Thompson could also go a long way, even if it leaves other problem areas unattended.

The amazing thing about the position the Thunder are in this summer is that they can use their cap space to add an impact free agent or two, or use it to acquire a player in a trade using their stockpile of draft capital (15 first-round picks in the next seven drafts) without having to send back matching salary, or use the space to sign an impact free agent or two and then make a trade by attaching that draft capital to the mid-sized salary of Dort, who feels a lot more expendable now that Caruso’s in the fold.

It’s easy to say the Thunder don’t need to act with urgency given the length of their runway, but every title shot is precious and should be treated accordingly. The Thunder also have an especially rare two-year window with both Williams and Holmgren providing All-Star-level production while on rookie-scale contracts. Those guys are both extension-eligible after the 2024-25 season, and once they get their rookie maxes, that window closes. There might not be another opportunity like this to meaningfully add to their core, at least not without subtracting from what they already have. By the same token, those impending maxes will make them wary of adding another big long-term contract in a second-apron world.

The front office had a chance to make a splash last season but opted to play it safe. The Giddey trade shows that they’re ready to hit the accelerator, but that was also a no-brainer move that rid them of a distressed asset. The next week or two will tell us how bold they’re truly ready to get.