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Thunder is in perfect position to snag a sleeper

by Darnell Mayberry Published: June 19, 2011

No surefire stars are believed to be in this year's NBA Draft.

But one thing every draft has is sleepers. And the Thunder is in prime position to potentially get a good one.

With the 24th overall pick, Oklahoma City can possibly come away with the steal of the draft Thursday night. The mid-to-late 20s has historically been a hotbed for players that fall through the cracks before ultimately carving out solid careers.

Each of the past 10 drafts has yielded players in that range who have become valuable role players, elite scorers and even All-Stars.

Can the Thunder find that next gem?

That's the biggest challenge facing the franchise in this year's draft.

But the beauty of picking 24th is there is no pressure to come away with an impact player. The downside for the Thunder, of course, is the possibility of passing on that prospect that turns out to be a big-time player and, thus, botching the draft.

The Thunder can go many ways Thursday. Because of its stacked roster, the Thunder's most likely option seems to be drafting an international player and stashing him overseas for a few seasons. But OKC also can trade up, as it did last season to net Cole Aldrich, trade down to acquire more future assets or trade out altogether. None of those maneuvers would come as a shock.

Standing pat and selecting someone, though, might be the smartest option of all.

Ignoring for a moment the likelihood of a higher-ranked player slipping and falling to 24, there always seems to be overlooked or under-scouted prospects available in the latter stages of the first round who prove worthy of a selection. The Thunder franchise landed that exact guy in 2008 when it selected Serge Ibaka 24th overall.

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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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The top steals of the last 10 years from late in the first round of the NBA Draft.

Year, Player, Selected, Team

2010, Trevor Booker, 23, Washington

You might remember him torching the Thunder this season with a pair of double-doubles in the two regular season meetings.

2009, Taj Gibson, 26, Chicago

Ironically, the Bulls acquired this pick from the Thunder in the trade that brought Thabo Sefolosha to OKC. Gibson just keeps on getting better.

2008, Serge Ibaka, 24, Thunder

The selection that taught most Thunder fans to stop questioning GM Sam Presti. Ibaka led the league in total blocks in only his second season.

2007, Aaron Brooks, 26, Houston

Lightning quick point guard averaged career highs of 19.6 points, 5.3 assists and 2.6 rebounds in 2009-10.

2006, Kyle Lowry, 24, Memphis

Finally given the keys to the Rockets in 2010-11, Lowry averaged 13.5 points, 6.7 assists and 1.4 steals, all career highs.

2005, David Lee, 30, New York

A double-double machine that saw players like Johan Petro and Wayne Simien picked ahead of him.

2004, Kevin Martin, 26, Sacramento

For the past five seasons, he's been at least a 20-point scorer in Houston and Sacramento.

2003, Kendrick Perkins, 27, Memphis

Perkins is now considered by many to be the best low post man defender in basketball.

2002, Tayshaun Prince, 23, Detroit

The five players picked immediately in front of Prince: Casey Jacobsen, Qyntel Woods, Kareem Rush, Ryan Humphrey and Curtis Borchardt.

2001, Tony Parker, 28, San Antonio

He became a three-time All-Star, a three-time champion and the 2007 Finals MVP. You can't find a bigger steal.


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