The offseason saw its first big move when the Oklahoma City Thunder struck a big deal to send PG Chris Paul to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Ricky Rubio and Kelly Oubre Jr. There were other pieces involved, but those three were at the core of the trade. So now that OKC has committed fully to the rebuild, what does that mean for Rubio and Oubre in terms of fantasy basketball heading into 2020-21? We’re going to take a look at how the trade boosts their value, as well as some players already on the Thunder roster.
Chris Paul trade fallout for Thunder
So right off the bat we can identify a few players who benefit from the move. Let’s first take a look at OKC’s depth chart heading into free agency and next season. Remember, the Thunder also have two first-round picks at Nos. 25 and 28.
PG: Ricky Rubio, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque
SG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort, Hamidou Diallo
SF: Kelly Oubre Jr., Luguentz Dort, Terrance Ferguson
PF: Darius Bazley, Kelly Oubre Jr., Mike Muscala
C: Steven Adams, Mike Muscala, Darius Bazley
So with free agency coming off, I left off Danilo Gallinari and Nerlens Noel. The veteran center could be retained since the Thunder lack depth at the position. My guess is the Thunder let Gallo walk and he seeks a deal with a contending team. Despite the roster turnover and new coach in Mark Daigneault, the Thunder still have an OK team. Let’s get into the fantasy basketball implications.
You’ve got to give props to Sam Presti. He’s pretty good at identifying talent and SGA was an amazing get from the Clippers in the Paul George trade. In his second season, Gilgeous-Alexander took a big step, averaging 19 points per game for the Thunder in a 3-guard lineup last season. He was a borderline All-Star and should only improve again in Year 3 with OKC. The turnover on the roster isn’t that bad. Replacing Chris Paul with Ricky Rubio may actually be a good thing. Kelly Oubre is coming off an injury but was looking very promising for the Suns prior to going down. Steven Adams is still kicking it down low. If anything, clearing out Paul and Dennis Schroder frees up SGA to be the focal point of the offense.
We’ve seen this type of projection for players in their third years before. Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors is a good example. We saw him take a big step in his second year before breaking out in the championship season with Kawhi Leonard. Then in that third full season, Siakam turned into an All-Star. My guess is Gilgeous-Alexander will push for Most Improved Player and an All-Star spot in 2020-21.
Gilgeous-Alexander ranks 34th on Wong’s Athletic rankings heading into this season. It seems very fair to expect him to rise before the season begins now that both Schroder and Paul are off the roster. SGA’s usage rate was 23.7 percent last season, up around 5 percent from his rookie season with the Clips. It’s safe to assume that another uptick in usage is going to come. Sharing a backcourt with CP3 and Schroder is way different than playing off the ball with Rubio. It should lead to more shots for SGA, who had a true shooting percentage of 56.8 last season.
If I were in a deeper 12-team season-long league, I’d probably look to reach a bit on SGA. If you’re high on him, it’s a decent idea if you think Gilgeous-Alexander can take that third step like Siakam did last season. SGA some time in the third round seems like the perfect spot. He could end up being a top 25-30 player in most formats.
Ricky Rubio and Kelly Oubre
We’ll throw both of these into the same category. On the surface, I think this is a bit of a step back for Rubio and Oubre. While they get out from under the shadow of Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, the pair also got traded to a worse team and offensive situation. We’ve sort of seen this before though, right? We all expected the Thunder to be worse without Russell Westbrook and with CP3, but that wasn’t exactly the case. This was with Billy Donovan as coach, so things will change under Daigneault in Year 1. There’s still some optimism is the roster can stay healthy.
Last season, per CBS Sports, Rubio finished 15th overall in FPTS per game at 34.5. He had a resurgence in his lone season with Phoenix, averaging 8.8 assists per game. It was his highest mark since 2016-17 when he was with the Timberwolves. Rubio also averaged a career-high 13 points per game. That number could be similar in 2020-21 considering Rubio will be tasked with picking up more on offense. SGA and Oubre will be the first and second options, then it will likely be Rubio, Adams and Bazley. Unless OKC’s offense completely tanks, Rubio should still have value in season-long as an assist specialist.
Oubre was in the midst of a breakout season before tearing his meniscus and requiring season-ending knee surgery. The Suns held Oubre out through the restart as a precaution, not that it really impacted much in the end. He averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds in 56 games in 2019-20, posting a true shooting percentage of 56 percent. Oubre’s PER was only 14.9 but the Suns really didn’t blossom until the NBA bubble. This could be the season where we see a full-fledged breakout from Oubre, similar to the SGA-Siakam comparisons. I don’t think Oubre has All-Star upside, but he could average over 20 points per game if his knee can hold up and his usage remains in the 20-25 percent range.
Overall, I like both Rubio and Oubre as sleeper picks somewhere in the 8-10 round range in 2020-21. Like I said, Rubio — if nothing else — should give you a nice assist stat stick in ROTO and H2H catty formats. If your league counts triple-doubles, he could put together a few during the season. Oubre has a clear path to being the top option on the Thunder if SGA doesn’t blow us all away. Oubre could also go overlooked coming off the injury but really he’s had plenty of time to recover from a torn meniscus.