NBA general managers play their own version of the stock market. Owning five first-round picks in the next two drafts, Thunder general manager Sam Presti owns several tradable commodities. The most valuable, by far, are Oklahoma City’s pick this season and Phoenix’s first-round pick in 2010. Pardon the pun, but if the "Setting Suns” continue their downward spiral, that pick could be highly coveted by other GMs. First-round picks acquired in trades are not the same. Oklahoma City owns Denver’s and San Antonio’s first-round picks in this year’s draft, provided both teams make the playoffs. Those are labeled "protected” picks. If the Spurs or Nuggets nose dive and miss the playoffs — highly unlikely — the Thunder doesn’t get the pick until 2010. Phoenix’s pick in 2010 is different. It’s "unprotected.” The Thunder gets the Suns’ first-round pick next season regardless of where the Suns finish. Shaquille O’Neal, Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire are all signed through 2010. Grant Hill’s contract expires this season. But if the Suns continue to struggle, it’s conceivable they might trade a star or two at some point the next 12 months to get younger. That’s where league GMs play the stock market. Phoenix’s pick could be a lottery pick in a draft in which point guard Grant Wall, a high school senior in Raleigh, N.C., might be the No. 1 overall player in 2010 after playing one year in college. "Draft picks are assets other teams value,” Presti said. "Having flexibility gives us various options.” What are Presti’s options? →Presti can package Phoenix’s, Denver’s or San Antonio’s picks, plus the Thunder’s first-round pick this season, to move up a couple of spots in the draft to take someone like OU’s Blake Griffin. →Presti can keep the picks and draft rookies to complement a young team that has improved in recent weeks. →Presti can use one or more of the draft picks to acquire a veteran player at a cap-friendly salary. "There’s a lot of different ways to build your team,” Presti said. "We have to make good decisions.” Fans love Nash and Shaq. But no one could blame Thunder fans if they root against the Suns. The more games Phoenix loses the next 12 months, the more it increases the value of the Suns’ 2010 pick.
Thunder first-round draft picks2009 Oklahoma City #Denver #San Antonio 2010 Oklahoma City *Phoenix #Protected (usable only if team makes playoffs) *Unprotected. (Owns pick regardless of W-L record)