The headline to this blog is misleading. The ideal draft is a trade with the Clippers for Blake Griffin, but let’s assume that longshot won’t happen. Then what?
How about another longshot? This one more likely, courtesy of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The T-Wolves traded with Washington on Tuesday and now possess the fifth and sixth picks in the NBA Draft. Minnesota’s goal is either to pad its roster with young talent — the T-Wolves have two later first-round picks — or to trade up in search of who knows who.
What if the T-Wolves covet Ricky Rubio and doesn’t come to a deal with Memphis, which drafts just ahead of the Thunder? The Grizzlies take Hasheem Thabeet or James Harden or Tyreke Evans, and that makes it OKC’s turn. And what if the Thunder plays good enough poker to get Minnesota to offer those two picks at five and six?
Not likely. The T-Wolves likely don’t covet Rubio that much, that it in effect would lose Randy Foye (traded to Washington) and the No. 6 pick for Rubio. But you never know. Stranger draft things have happened. The T-Wolves are one of those franchises that need an excitement jolt, which Rubio would provide.
And for the Thunder, there’s no better scenario this side of Blake Griffin than getting the fifth and sixth picks. All teams could use young (inexpensive) talent, and the chance to add two players this high in a draft is a shortcut to success.
Who could the Thunder get at five and six?
Here’s the ideal situation. Memphis unexpectedly takes Arizona State sharpshooter James Harden at No. 2. Minnesota gets Rubio at No. 3. Sacramento grabs University of Memphis star Tyreke Evans.
Then the Thunder gets back to back picks, and the 7-foot-2 Thabeet remains available. And general manager Sam Presti’s commitment to defense kicks in. He grabs Thabeet, then at No. 6 takes Southern Cal swingman DeMar DeRozan, the best athlete in the draft (yes, including Griffin). DeRozan is incredibly athletic with a limited (for now) offensive game. Sort of a 20-year-old Desmond Mason.
And the Thunder’s defensive future sparkles. Thabeet can block shots; if he can defend the post, he’s a franchise defender. There is every reason to believe DeRozan can be a shutdown perimeter defender; put him on the same team with Thabo Sefalosha and a maturing Russell Westbrook, and the Thunder eventually would be defensive demons.
There is much speculation that the Thunder covets Harden or Stephen Curry. But the Thunder has plenty of perimeter offense, with Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Westbrook. Aside from Griffin, there is no interior offense to speak of in this draft. Rubio might be a special talent as a point guard, so the Thunder might decide to step off the defensive track for a chance at the Spanish teenager. But otherwise, the best value to the Thunder in this draft is defense, and that’s Thabeet and DeRozan.