The Oklahoma City Thunder went into Thursday night's NBA Draft armed with three first-round picks and plenty of scenarios strong enough to steal the show.
But two trades and tons of confusion later, and the Thunder came away with just one player in the first round, perhaps the least sexy selection possible, yet a prospect who could be the best fit.
Oklahoma City traded up to acquire Kansas center Cole Aldrich from New Orleans, which held the 11th overall selection. The Thunder sent the Hornets its 21st and 26th selections, which turned into Iowa State's Craig Brackins and Washington's Quincy Pondexter. The Thunder also took on Morris Peterson and his expiring $6.6 million contract from the Hornets.
Because Peterson's contract is included, the trade cannot become official until July 8, when the league's moratorium is lifted. The Thunder is prohibited from discussing the proposed trade until it is approved by the league.
In a separate deal, the Thunder sent 18th overall pick Eric Bledsoe to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for a future first-round draft pick. Oklahoma City on Wednesday had acquired the 18th selection and shooting guard Daequan Cook from Miami in exchange for the 32nd overall selection.
But after all the wheeling and dealing, it's Aldrich who the Thunder hopes will blossom into a difference-maker.
Thunder star forward Kevin Durant, like he did in 2008 with Russell Westbrook, endorsed the selection live on ESPN. When asked what stymied the Thunder's playoff run, Durant pointed to size.
“I think it was a big defensive presence like Cole Aldrich,” Durant said. “I think he's going to be a game-changer for us. I'm very excited to add him to our team. I'm looking forward to next season.”
Aldrich averaged 11.9 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots during his junior season for the Jayhawks. At 6-foot-11, he is expected to bring that same defensive presence to the Thunder to shore up the team's frontline.
In Oklahoma City, Aldrich can only add to perhaps the most overachieving frontcourt in the league last year. The Thunder led the league in blocked shots, finished third in rebounding and sixth in rebounding differential at plus-2.84.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti, as has generally been the case during his draft nights, went with the safe pick in Aldrich rather than more questionable choices that remained on the board at 18, 21 and 26.
After sending its 32nd overall selection to Miami on Wednesday, the Thunder acquired the draft rights to German center Tibor Pleiss, the 31st overall pick from New Jersey via Atlanta. With the 51st overall pick, the Thunder selected Magnum Rolle, a 6-foot-11 center from Louisiana Tech, but traded Rolle to the Pacers for Florida State forward Ryan Reid, the 57th overall pick, and cash.
The Thunder also acquired Latavious Williams, the 48th overall pick, from Miami in exchange for a protected future second round pick. Williams, a 6-foot-8 combo forward, played last season with the Tulsa 66ers. He became the first high school player ever drafted into the NBA D-League.
Picked: 11th overall by the New Orleans Hornets
Height/weight: 6-11, 245
2009-10 stats: 11.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 3.5 bpg, 0.9 apg, 0.8 spg
Notable: Won the 2009-10 men's college basketball Academic All-American of the Year award. ... Named to the third-team AP All-American Team in 2010. ... Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and 2010. ... Averaged 14.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks as a sophomore. ... Has a 7-foot-4 wingspan.
Picked: 31st overall by New Jersey Nets
Team: Brose Baskets Bamberg
Height/weight: 7-foot-1, 242
2009-10 stats: 17.6 mpg, 8.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 0.3 spg, 0.2 apg
Notable: This 20-year-old German is considered one of the top international prospects, but needs to develop. ... Excellent hands, big wingspan and nice mobility. ... Has 15-foot shooting range and pick-and-pop ability. ... Lacks lateral quickness, physical strength and explosiveness. ... Must add to offensive repertoire underneath.
Position: Power forward
Picked: 47th overall by the Miami Heat
Team: Tulsa 66ers
Height/weight: 6-foot-8, 190 pounds
2009-10 stats: 20.5 mpg, 7.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 0.7 spg, 0.7 apg
Notable: Already knows the Thunder playbook thanks to playing with the Tulsa 66ers last season ... Played in developmental league rather than signing with University of Memphis, which made him eligible for this year’s draft ... Has displayed a willingness to learn and has excellent work ethic ... Shot 52.8 percent from the field and started nine of 47 games ... Averaged 23 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks, four assists and four steals for Christian Life Center in Humble, Texas, as a senior in 2008-09.
Position: Power forward
Picked: 57th overall by the Indiana Pacers
School: Florida State
Height/weight: 6-foot-8, 232 pounds
2009-10 stats: 6.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.5 bpg
Notable: Showed steady improvement while playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference ... Size and strength are appealing, but he is a definite project ... Averaged 18.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocked shots as a senior at Boyd Anderson High School in Florida, shooting 57.9 from the field and 77.9 percent from the line as a senior ... Helped the Tallahassee Wildcats capture the championship at the Showtime National Championship. Past Tallahassee players include Rashad Anderson of UConn, Jamal Levy of Wake Forest, Amare Stoudemire of the Phoenix Suns and Mike Williams, the former football All-American wide receiver at Southern Cal.