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NBA draft: A big dilemma for Thunder

by Darnell Mayberry Published: June 15, 2009
The new premium on point guards was pointed out in the NBA playoffs.

Players such as Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Chauncey Billups, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Aaron Brooks, Mike Bibby, Rafer Alston, Mo Williams and Andre Miller all enjoyed incredible success throughout much of their postseason stints.

The list of centers who had significant impacts on their teams? Well, that cluster is considerably more concise.

"The game has changed to where it’s not being played with true centers anymore,” said one NBA scout. "But you could give yourself a considerable advantage if you’re one of the few teams that have one.”

Fortunately for Oklahoma City, the Thunder already has Russell Westbrook, who figures to soon join the league’s elite list of guards.

And so the time has come for Oklahoma City to decide how important a true center is for this roster going forward. The draft is 10 days away. Connecticut’s 7-foot-3 center, Hasheem Thabeet, still could be available when the Thunder picks No. 3.

It could be a franchise-changing conclusion.

On one hand, interior defense is clearly the Thunder’s most pressing need. Coach Scott Brooks and Co. preach defense daily but don’t have anything close to the anchor in the middle that is the linchpin on many of the league’s best defensive teams.

Nine of the 10 teams that finished the season ranked in the top 10 in opponent scoring made the playoffs. The common denominator: all had an interior defender or shot-blocker at the center position. (Nine of the 10 teams that finished at the bottom 10 in opponent scoring missed the playoffs. All but two — Chicago and Phoenix — lacked a difference-maker defensively at center.)

But on the flip side, with its roster under construction, the Thunder isn’t in a position to draft for need.

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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